Monday, June 20, 2011

Mara and Baledrokadroka Reply to Michael Field's Coup Plotting Claim

Posted on Coup Four Point Five - 20 June 2011

Michael Field is a journalist who likes to watch and report sensationally on situations and not solve them. But he is right in saying this: if the pro-democracy movement is successful, then we will have a change of Government in Fiji. If he wants to call that a coup, then so be it. My aim is to achieve regime change without violence. We will make it happen by isolating the regime Internationally, Regionally and within Fiji Itself. We have already made great strides and as the people of Fiji know, I am already talking to regional leaders. When I go to New Zealand I will be meeting with government officials. I am also currently talking to a number of Ambassadors and High Commissioners here in Canberra. Everywhere I have gone, I have been given a warm and understanding reception.

As I said at the Pro Democracy Forum, we must achieve this change without violence. I know we can put pressure on the regime by mass peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience. The steps I am taking now are about giving confidence and hope to the people of Fiji so that when someone makes a stand against the regime, the people will stand alongside them. I have said many times and I will repeat. I will not take part in the Government that follows the fall of the Bainimarama regime. Before I can move forwards, I need to stand before the people of Fiji and answer for my part in 2006. If Michael Field thinks I am just another colonel trying to grab power, nothing I say now will change his opinion. But, Michael, when this is over and I am not part of the government and I have answered to the people of Fiji, I will expect an apology.

Thumbs up for Democracy
Ratu Tevita Mara

Michael Field's opinion piece 'Just another coup being plotted in Fiji … again' is full of unfounded statements of my real intentions as an advocate for the return of democracy in Fiji. It has to be challenged and I question how he arrived at such an  inaccurate conclusion. I speak for myself and shall leave Lt Colonel Tevita Mara to defend himself, which he has done amicably in the past month, despite his sceptics. 

I have been speaking out against Fiji's tyrannical rulers ever since arriving in Australia on invitation as a fellow at ANU's Society State Governance Melanesia on Saturday 11th April 2009 - the day after the abrogation of Fiji's Constitution by the Bainimarama military regime. Three days after  arriving in  free and democratic Australia,  I was given the opportunity to write an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Brisbane Times titled 'Those with loud voices must speak up to restore democracy in Fiji' (14th of April 2009). This, I am still doing in free and democratic Australia. 

As the chief organizer of the Fiji Democracy Freedom Movement (FDFM) forum in Canberra, I had invited Mara as a key note speaker. The decision to grant Mara a visa is the Australian government's call. The FDMF had only exercised its right as a lobby group in free and democratic Australia and due process was followed. I have also published  opinion editorials in the Fiji Times and Fiji's Daily Post against the regime in 2008 and 2009, prior to the clamping down on the freedom of the press through the draconian Media Decree. I am carrying on this advocacy through the blogs under my by-line unlike many writers who remain anonymous due to their fear of persecution. 

Mr Fields as a 'Pacific and Fiji Specialist' seems to have his own interpretation of politics. That I respect, but to call the FDFM initiatives an 'embryonic military coup' is mischievous to say the least.  How can any initiative to restore  democracy  in Fiji be attempted when the  Public Emergency Regulations enforced by the regime has curtailed public gatherings and dissenting opinions? The FDFM in its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2014, which was drafted in our Bankstown meeting last year and also adopted in the Queanbeyan forum last week, had articulated that the movement launch such international initiatives in a 'bottom up approach'.

Furthermore, I am not an 'out -of- work Colonel' as offhandedly categorized by Mr Field. I am in my third year of a full time PhD scholarship research at Australia's top ranked and the world's 16th ranked university, the Australian National University. I also have a busy schedule of lectures on military intervention in Fiji for undergraduates and lecture at the Australian Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies for which I am paid for. I am fully abreast of the literature on military intervention in politics and the damage it has done to coup-prone countries. To insinuate that I have sinister intentions of carrying out a remote controlled coup from Canberra is stretching the imagination. My career as a senior officer in the Fiji military came to an end on 13 January 2006, some eleven months before Bainimarama's coup because of my professional stand that the military should be apolitical.  I was also imprisoned and granted a nolle prosequi by Justice Bruce in 2008 and therefore was fully exonerated and am still seeking damages through my legal counselors.

I have helped Mr Michael Fields in his queries of certain events within the Fiji Military during my tenure as Land Forces Commander and Chief of Staff and am shocked at his 'gutter journalism' insinuating Mara and I are in a plot to further destabilize our beloved country which I spent 25 years serving also as a peacekeeper. I have no intentions of carrying out a military coup and abhor any suggestions by Mr Field that I am implicitly planning one. I was  a serving officer in Lebanon during Rabuka's coup of 1987 and in Sinai during George Speight and Binimarama's Coup of 2000. I left the military in January 2006 because I did not want to be party to a planned coup in 2006. This coup happened in December 2006 when I was earning an honest day's living planting pawpaws in Sigatoka and running a landscaping business.

I do not want to engage in a running media battle with Mr Fields as I would rather channel my literary and intellectual  skills in the restoration of democracy, which I have done through articulating  a Ten Point Plan. In this plan I have ensured that some of the major stake holders in Fiji politics today such as the SDL party, FLP, the Methodist Church, the GCC and even the Australian Congress of Trade Unions have commented on and backed. Roko Ului Mara has also backed the Ten Point Plan and together we have been soliciting support from Prime Ministers on down, to any one willing to listen and who has the future of Fiji at heart. Those with loud voices must speak up to restore democracy in Fiji!
Jone Baledrokadroka
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'Mara and Baledrokadroka plotting a coup': Opinion piece by Michael Field

LEST WE FORGET: George Speight just before he was arrested. Below: Baledrokadroka, Mara, Bainimarama, Qarase and Bavadra.

By Michael Field

When Voreqe Bainimarama staged his 2006 coup one of the laudable if hopelessly optimistic aims was that it was to end the cult of coups in Fiji.

It was never going to be and now we are witnessing the evolution of yet another slow coup in Fiji. It is an embryonic military coup, yet again, that is bound to end in a miscarriage.

Many seem to want to hail Lieutenant Colonel Tevita Mara as the new saviour of Fiji. In fact Mara and friend Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka are just the latest in a long line of plotters; Rabuka, Speight, Bainimarama et al.

They are using the right language as Bainimarama did in 2006; end coups, end corruption.
Every coup plotter talks like that (Rabuka and Speight spiced it up with indigenous supremacy as well). This latest one has the benefits of some slick PR with the carefully controlled media interviews and press releases, although of late it seems this part of the world has moved on and stopped taking notice.
Mara and Baledrokadroka are talking about democracy. Mara, portraying himself as some sinner who has seen redemption, even talks about facing the people who he so cruelly tormented, and receiving justice from them. He plainly has a biblical view of himself, although one senses he is not expecting a cell, but rather Government House. He wants to be the next Bainimarama.

Neither he nor Baledrokadroka are saying what it is that Fiji really needs to do for security, peace and democracy; close down the Republic of Fiji Military Forces. The military is and has been since 1987 a menace to the stability of Fiji.

Indeed, as the Mara-Minerva events show; they are worse than useless. The Tongan Navy simply sailed into Fiji waters and got Mara. What happened to all the millions of dollars lavished on the Fiji Navy? The same navy that gave us all Bainimarama.

And if Tonga is to be believed, when the Tongan Navy showed up at Minerva this month, the Fiji Navy ran away.

Minerva is not an argument for a bigger and better Fiji military; it's a little side-show that can best be solved by long established international processes and the very thing the South Pacific does best - lots of talking.

Because the RFMF is essentially a standing army with little to do (the UN invitations are not coming), it is top heavy in the colonel class. Many of the colonels have little actual military experience. They are classroom officers in an army thick with them.

Promotions are limited; Bainimarama's instance at staying as commander ensures there is a road block at the colonel class. The stable is full of dissatisfied colonels, many of whom want to be the next general, and thanks to Fiji's coup culture, the prime minister too.

Mara and Baledrokadroka are plotting a military coup; and they are doing it because they (not the people) believe that they, as soldiers and as senior officers, are better at running Fiji than Bainimarama. So does Colonel Pita Driti.

This is 1960s Africa all over again; except there it was senior NCOs preparing the next coup, or two. Frankly, this is a road to ruin for Fiji.

Sadly, as events in 2000 showed, most people saw the next coup coming. The only surprise was that it was George Speight nominally leading it and not the others that we had thought it would be; another band of colonels. Mara is giving the impression that he is the next coup leader but that's highly unlikely from Nuku'alofa. It will be another colonel, some one little known. That was the way things were in 2000 - and recall, Rabuka was just a colonel and down the peaking scale, when he emerged bright eyed on the road to Saving Fiji.

Samoa's Tuilaepa Sailele has given the men an audience. This is an unwise piece of egotism on his part; its none of his business and it links him into the plotting underway.

What difference can he make to the situation? The same can be said of Australia and New Zealand; hitching their wagons to a couple of out-of-work colonels is not a long term solution.

In a tactical sense, Mara and Baledrokadroka have a ruinous problem; a coup cannot be staged aboard without an uprising at home. The simple fact is that the Fiji population is timid, compliant, divided and weak. The Suva media and intellectuals quietly moan about how hard things are - "oh, woe is us, we suffer under censorship" - and then do nothing.

There will be no welcoming revolutionary masses at Nadi airport for the two colonels. They will come to New Zealand for a couple of days and brief foreign affairs officials and one or two politicians. Mara will go back to Tonga and might even tour Samoa and California. Then what?

The sad fate that befell Timoci Bavadra comes to mind. After Sitiveni Rabuka overthrew him, Bavadra trekked around the world with his message. For a while he had queues of reporters wanting to hear him. Then, as time passed, people like Richard Naidu - his advocate and press secretary - would have to ring up friendly journalists and get them to give a couple of hundred words to the lonely figure.

Bavadra's cause was entirely just and right; but realpolitic meant he was doomed to become a lonely, lost figure. Somewhat like Laisenia Qarase.

Make no mistake, Mara and Baledrokadroka are plotting a coup and if it succeeds, it will be Coup V or Coup VI - depending on how you count Fiji coups. But it will not succeed; it has nothing of the grassroots about it, it has nothing about democracy in it.

They are simply unhappy, dysfunctional ex-employees of a military full of born-to-rule colonels. If Mara is the answer to Fiji's question, then one really has to worry at what the question was. The question cannot be: Which colonel will now rule Fiji?

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