Friday, August 08, 2008

Redefining the role of the military

Redefining the role of the military

Sai Comment:
- I really firmly support Dr Brij Lal's view on this. The military is an instrument of the state and therefore is subservient to the command of those mandated with the will of the people as expressed through representative democracy. Pure and simple. I can't fathom the logic, sense or argument behind the sentiments in the draft charter in promoting an enhanced role for the military. It is nothing but the machinations of corrupt and power hungry people hiding behind military uniforms. They have no place in Fiji and should be ashamed of their illegal actions in usurping a democratically elected government.

The move to redefine the role of the military is now part of the draft People’s Charter.
National Council for Building a Better Fiji communiqué to mark the endorsing of the draft Charter says: “The complete breakdown of law and order following the coup in 2000, which was instigated by indigenous Fijian nationalists signifies the importance of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces to ensure lasting peace and stability for Fiji. The NCBBF accepts that Fiji needs a strong and capable military force that remains engaged with the community and has a more active role in our national development. A redefined role for the RFNF that incorporates the concept of human security for all must include a future obligation on all RFMF personnel to at all times defend the Constitution of Fiji.”

Do we really need this?

Why can’t the military just return to barracks?

This move had been orchestrated from the military after the December coup to ascertain its claim on its role in their own interpretation of section 112 of the 1997 Constitution.

The constitutional role of the RFMF is yet to be clarified by the High Court.

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had said: “Under our current constitution, Fiji’s military is charged with national security, defence and also the well being of Fiji’s people. Under the circumstances, the military under my stewardship could not possibly see such an unacceptable situation unfold without seeking to address it.”

Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said the military had nothing to do with the day to day running of the government and has no role in politics.

The move to redefine the role of the military has attracted a lot of criticisms.

Pacific Concerns Resources Centre spokesperson Ema Tagicakibau said Fiji would be doomed if this was allowed. This recommendation she said must be strongly condemned buy law abiding people of Fiji.

“We must recognize the supposed bright future the NCBBF is planning for Fiji is one that takes us beyond the current situation under the military backed regime running our country right now. Every coup comes with its package of hoodwinking and we need to strongly oppose the Animal Farm strategy that the NCBBF is short-changing the people,” Ms Tagicakibau said.

“When we have the heads of two unlikely institution sitting together in an unholy alliance making decisions to matters that is rightly the role of an elected government, we need to question the legitimacy and legality of this process.”

Ousted Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes said members of the committee engaged in the discussions on the future role of the military have been totally compromised and the joint statement by Archbishop Mataca and the Commander using the 2000 coups as justification for greater military involvement in national affairs has to be the biggest joke yet.

“The fact is the breakdown of law and order either before during or after a

coup is caused by the indiscipline and unprofessionalism of the military and police, because none of the coups that have taken place in Fiji since independence could have occurred without the full or partial participation of the military,’’ he said.

“To somehow suggest that in order to stop the problems in future, we need the military to play a greater role in national development because the ‘coups that they caused’ creates a breakdown and law and order, so therefore, we need to involve them more so they can clean up the mess they created in the first place?”

Speaking from Johannesburg, South Africa, Australian National University academic Dr Brij Lal said the fact to be grasped is that the military wass an instrument of the state, and not something over and above it.

“The question is of accountability. Who is the military accountable to in a democratic state?” he said.

“It is to the elected government of the day, the repository of the people’s will. It cannot set itself up as the interpreter and guarrantor of the people’s will.

“If the suggestion of the NCBBF is taken to its logical conclusion, then we are talking about a militarised democracy for Fiji. In the ultimate analysis, it is what the army decides that will be the order for the day.

“Do the people of Fiji want to out-source their fundamental rights to an unrepresentative institution like the military?

“I don’t believe the military has the necessary civilian skills to run the country. Their ethos and training prepares them for a different role.

“Their infusion into the civil service destroys the morale of those in the civil service.

“There is a confusion of roles and expectations. We have seen in the past how military appointment to the civil service has been spectacular failures.

“Just look back to the Rabuka years following the 1987 coups. How many of those appointed to senior positions in the civil service will have made through the normal route? Not many would be my guess.

“ The Commander promised that no one will benefit from his coup. Well, that has not been the case at all. People supporting the military backed charter have been appointed to ambassadorial positions, with no particular qualifications.

“I suspect giving the military enhanced role in the running of the country is a ploy to buy off their loyalty and support. I wonder what the military is saying to the civil servants who have spent their entire lives in the public service.”

On human security Mr Beddoes said: “What ‘human security’ are they talking about? They have demonstrated in many ways since Dec 2006 that the only kind of ‘human security’ they can provide, is one where they disrespect, degrade, abuse and threaten and kill the very citizens they are supposed to be protecting. A military force is supposed

to be there to defend the country and its citizens from foreign intervention and against any ‘national security risk’.”

National Federation Party general secretary Pramod Rae said the role of the military was clearly defined in the RFMF Act and the Constitution.

“The military is supposed to play a very restricted role in the running or the development of the country and that is to concentrate solely on the security of the nation,’’ he said.

“That role is not only clearly defined in the Constitution but also in the RFMF Act.”

Mr Rae says the military needs to understand that its main role is to support the civilian government of the day chosen by the people in terms of national security.

Soqosoqo Duavata Ni Lewenivanua party national director Peceli Kinivuwai said the role of the military was definite and distinct and should never be changed unless it was done through parliament.

“We can make all the changes necessary for the country, but only through an elected government and through parliament. Otherwise, it will be so against the Constitution to institute such changes,” Mr Kinivuwai said.

The country he said wanted to see changes take place for the betterment of the country, but for such changes to take place, the first thing to happen was to hold election.

Let us be reminded that a free society is not a militarized society. It is a society where law enforcement is the duty of civilians and any effort to change that ought to meet a very heavy burden of proof.

We all know that in the build up to the December 2006 military coup, we had witnessed the rise to an intense debate about roles of the military enshrined in the 1997 Constitution between the government and the military.

I must admit the current military intervention in politics is a real concern. And now the NCBBF wants its role redefined so that it is involved in national development.

What is really happening now is that the military wants to have a decisive role to play in the running of the country.

And this will mean that when the military is unhappy with the government of the day it will just step in with the excuse that the leaders are not performing or whatever.

The simple rule is that soldiers should return to the barracks and should not cross into civilian activities.

In the United States of America under Posse Comitatus, active duty military can act in a variety of support functions to offer disaster relief, from providing logistics to distributing humanitarian aid. But first-responders to homeland security must be civilian-led: police officers, firefighters, medical and rescue crews, and, if necessary, the citizen soldiers of the National Guard.

Now with the redefined role of the military, it is a fact that it borders on militarisation of democracy in Fiji.

Is this the true democracy that they wan to put in place for the nation?

Mr Beddoes said all members of the NCBBF and the regime should be held accountable for every single outcome they proposes, including their no more coup claim.

“And should there be another coup, then each of them, including those from abroad should be formally charged for treason and sent away for the remainder of their natural lives, for promoting the nonsense about more military involvement as means of ensuring our security in the first place.”

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