Thursday, September 16, 2010

Has Fiji's military reached its Culminating Point?

Posted on COUP FOUR POINT FIVE - Thursday, September 16, 2010
By Jone Baledrokadroka


Is the military regime, with the latest weekly bizarre resignations and suspensions, about to implode? The regime spin doctors would have us believe that everything is on track and that it is business as usual with the promised political reforms before the 2014 election.

But as George Büchner, the German revolutionary, once dramatically said “Revolution is like Saturn, it devours its own children.” Saturn, of course, ate his own children in order to prevent one from killing him, as had been prophesised.

Robespierre, the man most responsible for chopping off the heads of many French nobles and then those of accused counter-revolutionaries, is said to have uttered the same words just before he was beheaded at the behest of someone else. In essence: revolutionists usually end up victims of their own revolution.

It was the same in Russia during and after the Communist Revolution. Here, on our own shores the father of the Fiji coups, Major General Sitiveni Rabuka, suffered a similar, though less bloody, fate.

Former Police Commissioner Esala Teleni, and now the suspended Third Battalion commander, Lt Colonel Tevita Mara, are the latest to be devoured to ensure Commodore Bainimarama’s weekly survival.

The adage “keep my friends close and my enemies closer” must be a constant on the mind of Bainimarama. For some four years after the 2006 coup, the list of those devoured for the sake of the ‘incorruptible’ dictator is now as long as Fiji’s present climatic drought.

Bainimarama’s ship of state is looking more and more less seaworthy by the day as he tosses another of his coup lieutenants overboard. Lt Colonel Tevita Mara, through his chiefly ties, ‘business dealings’ and most likely political ambition, had become a major threat to Bainimarama’s very survival.

So had Police Commissioner Esala Teleni, Bainimarama’s close Navy buddy. Both these officers’ blind military loyalty were crucial in the execution of Bainimarama’s cleanup coup, the two men providing the much-needed hard influential edge.

So, who are the soft influential edges? Apart from the phantom military council and known local citizens, Bainimarama is also being advised by former Fiji residents and academics, all close confidents in metropolitan Australia and New Zealand.

These armchair do-gooders backed the 2006 coup with high hopes of reforms dictatorship style. They also monitor international opinion for the regime.

These coup apologists (some of them victims of former coups), whilst they enjoy the fruits of democracy in these countries are happy to let the poor natives taste some of their ‘own coup medicine’ and help Bainimarama transform Fiji into the paradise of the Pacific. Some of these consultants and advisors have now run back to Australia and New Zealand, their pockets loaded with absolutely nothing to show for their efforts.

Four years down the track this utopian mirage seems to have evaporated in the harsh reality of international and regional non-acceptance and national economic ruin. The development dividend promised as a result of an ordered coup society despite all the regimes spin doctoring is a myth. Why?

Postcolonial coup legacies have left a swathe of human despair and despondency among developing nations after much-promised military parade ground precision politics.

For example in Nigeria when Army general and former President of Nigeria, Olusẹgun Obasanjo, came to power in a second tenure of military rule in 1999, the pathologies of militarized politics stemming from decades of corrupt military rule were extremely hard to root out. Similarly, in Ghana the militarization of politics and the politicization of the military had degrading effects on both military and political institutions.

On the other hand, in Latin America no military government per se remains today in stark contrast to the 1960’s and 1970’s. In Asia, half of the region’s 16 regimes were military or military backed in 1980. Now, only two are military controlled.

Will the ditching of Bainimarama’s rogue lieutenants finally bring the nation an improvement in social development, national security and international legitimacy? No. And according to Dr Kayode Fayemi, an expert on Nigeria’s ethnic military coups, what is required is:


•Depoliticization and subordination of the military to civilian authority
•Reorientation and reprofessionalizing the military, including redefining its roles and mission
•Demilitarization of public order, policing and police reform, including reorientation of the police towards civil crime fighting
•Balancing the demands of national defence with those of development
• Engage the international community in the security sector reform programme

With the ‘resignation’ of Esala Teleni and the ‘suspension’ of Tevita Mara the security sector is in dire need of reform as recommended above. Otherwise, what will continue to unfold is another disastrous military misadventure into politics.

The present politicized military has gone way past the culminating point. The culminating point in military strategy is the point at which a military force no longer is able to perform its operations.

Naval Commander Joeli Cawaki, the Comissioner Western, understands this point in regards to the present state of the Sugar Industry, quote: "The mill upgrade - for me - is a failure. It's supposed to be a success but it's a failure. We are not getting the TCTS that is supposed to improve it but on the other hand the performance is poor." ( FBC Radio News 13 Sep 2010). The recent unsolved and suspicious heist of a million dollars fuels rumours that may reinforce the point made.

As all despots know, at the pinnacle of despotic power there is only room for one -the Supremo. Even if it means devouring your once close lieutenants, because the truth is there will always be eager opportunist replacements. Sadly, for the nation the present military elite has taken the RFMF into deep political quagmire by the week.

With former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the new Labour government’s Foreign Affairs seat for the next three years, it may well be further diplomatic check-mate for Bainimarama.

The only option is national dialogue and immediate democratic elections with the military back in barracks, otherwise the peoples' suffering continues ... water shortages, droughts, huge sugar industry loses and all.


Pictures: Esala Teleni caricature and Tevita Mara.


Jone Baledrokadroka is a former acting land former commander and a former member of the Great Council of Chiefs, who is now a PhD in politics candidate at ANU, Canberra.

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