Monday, August 22, 2011

Is Bainimarama looking to follow Suharto's disastrous 'New Order'?

Posted on Coup Four Point Five - 22 August 2011

SUHARTO: Came unstuck after trying to distance himself from the old regime.
By Jone Baledrokadroka
Where are we heading? 

The military regime’s policy to emasculate the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC), the Methodist Church, the Municipal Councils and now the unions and at the same time blatantly militarize government has ploughed ahead unabated.

All the while it brazenly courts the ignorant rural mass with development made possible by non-transparent debt laden funding.

After almost five years in power Bainimarama’s belief that military rule as decreed can ensure the maintenance of political stability needed for economic development is ever so questionable even with his pro-coup social justice advocates.

In addition, there is now growing cynicism about the regimes anti-corruption drive and judicial independence with the revelations of FICAC’s sacked prosecutor Madhawa Tenakoon.

Poverty is at an all time high and economic growth is pitiful with a dubious resource extraction industry - the promised economic panacea of the ‘new order’.

It seems to assuage public doubts before the 2014 elections the regime has embarked on a final path to consolidate its ‘new order’ by destroying the unions notwithstanding Aiyaz Khaiyum’s unabashed duplicitous rhetoric.

Hence the future scenario post 2014 elections of a Fiji ruled by a dictator aided by a dominant single party state system akin to Indonesia’s Golkar party of the Suharto era is mooted.

The opening of a Fiji embassy this year in Jakarta next door to Fiji’s high commission in Malaysia has probably stiffened Bainimarama’s resolve to seriously consider this past political experiment. History, however, shows the ‘new order’ misadventure badly corrupted the Indonesian military and sent that country to bankruptcy culminating in the fall of Suharto’s regime in 1998.

General Surhato, in tightening his grip on power turned the Army backed Golkar party (which portrayed itself as a non-ideological entity) into an electoral machine to spearhead his ‘new order’. Seeking to distance himself from the old regime and the other political parties, Suharto settled on this so-called ‘party of functional groups’ dominated by the Army.

Golkar also began identifying itself with the government, encouraging civil servants to vote for it as a sign of loyalty to the government. In addition all unions were united into a single body answerable to the state. 

The Bainimarama/Khaiyum regime is doing exactly the same with the military the only means to this end.

The population was no longer there to be mobilized by political parties; rather, the people were the 'floating mass', who needed firm guidance so they would not be lured into politics. A similar brainwashing process is underway in Fiji aided and underpinned by Khaiyum’s seriously flawed masters thesis.

Should Fiji go to elections in 2014 it should be under a reformed common roll in an open list PR system. Both pro and anti- regime election reformers agree such an electoral reform is warranted. Though a closed list PR system may be favoured by the regime in its desire for complete central control and dominance of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.

As Bainimarama will want to remain in power he will need to form an electoral machine such as Golkar to give it ‘democratic legitimacy’. To eliminate all political competition various decrees including the recent  Essential Industry Decree against the union body is critical to the Bainimarama/ Khaiyum regimes longevity quest. Electronic voting may even add to the creation of such an electoral party machine.

The Fiji military also had been giving close thought to this pre-1998 Indonesian ‘new order’ model of government even prior to the 2006 coup. The military leadership saw itself as committed to modernization and development while it viewed the political parties as standing for sectional interests inimical to national goals. Bainimarama’s rural tours rhetoric in the vernacular often reinforces this point. More so Khaiyum’s ‘sunset clause’ in his thesis has also gelled with Bainimarama’s new found ethno-nationalism.

Why purge the unions? The labour unions since the formation of the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) in 1985 have made up the backbone of its political following.  Former Prime Minister Dr Timoci Bavadra was once president of the Fiji Public Services Association that hatched the FLP and former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudrhy the secretary of the National Farmers Union. More so in silencing the unions the regime silences the urban masses and more importantly the growing urban middle class so necessary for liberal democracy.

The FLP has also become the mainstream Indo Fijian party in the recent past.

Why purge the GCC and the Methodist Church?  The association of the Methodist Church and the Vanua through the GCC with mainstream Fijian political parties headed by Prime Ministers Rabuka and Qarase is the bed rock of indigenous political support.

For example traditional confederacy heads; Adi Samanunu Talakuli, Ro Temumu Kepa and Ratu Naigama Lalabalavu and former Methodist Church Vice President Ratu Meli Saukuru were prominent members of the last Qarase government. Hence in silencing these traditional Fijian institutions the regime silences the indigenous masses.

So according to the Bainimarama/Khaiyum’s new order concept, the mass of the people would be floating voters permitted to express their political preferences in general elections once every five years.  Between elections they would have no political role and therefore in theory would be able to devote all their efforts to economic development.

As for the present political parties unable to organize their supporters in the rural and urban areas, the parties would wither away. In place of the political parties it is hoped will be the formation of new civilian organizations recruited from members of the younger generation. As with Golkar and with the Fiji regimes proposed political party it will then rely on local government administration and the military to mobilize its votes over and over again.

More so the Indonesian Army was able to spread its political power through its ‘territorial warfare doctrine’ by integrating itself with the people. The Fiji military in its ‘military for life’ concept of 2004 also has a similar doctrine given its huge rural and urban based reservist soldiers also on call for overseas peacekeeping duties. Indeed for every thousand population there are 10.1 soldiers. (see table) Easily given Fiji’s small close knit society, it is well feasible for the military to form a vast political network if it hasn’t already begun to do so. Further overburdening tax payers.

The appointing of military officers as government’s four divisional commissioners to integrate their divisions administration with the military’s territorial doctrine is not coincidental and lays the platform for a Golkar such party to be formed in the near future. To guarantee his longevity as dictator Bainimarama has to form a Golkar like party.

This is another grand illusion in an already failed ‘clean up’ campaign which is doing more damage to our society that is heavily laden with social mistrust and poverty. A quick return to liberal democracy is the way forward. 

Otherwise all the institutions of local and national governance that has evolved over our short history so necessary for a healthy and vibrant democracy are not strengthened over time and a whole generation is the poorer. The military unfortunately as in 1987 and 2000 remains the manipulated means for the present regime elite to stay in power.

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