Thursday, July 18, 2013

Fijian Militarism and Strong State Ideology

4000 young men and women flood to military recruitment - what else is there for job?

by Sai Lealea

As the Bainimarama dictatorship in Fiji lurches towards seeking legitimacy in proposed elections in 2014, its policy in militarising large sections of indigenous Fijian society and public life appears widespread and intrusive. This has in turn skewed Fijians’ view of the State as repressive and complicit in destroying key institutional practices and regard for their place in their own home land. Unless this decoupling effect is addressed, Fijians will now view the State with ongoing suspicion and derision which, over time, will hinder any attempt at achieving genuine statehood.

Militarism has been defined as the domination by the military in the formulation of policies and ideals, especially on a political level. Fiji’s experience of over a quarter century of coups has had an enduring effect on the militarising of government and its operating culture. Both at the policy-making and operational level, military personnel and ideals now predominate at the cabinet and once highly regarded and professional civil service. The resulting brain drain of professional and highly qualified Fiji civil servants are now the benefactors of many Pacific public services in the region, only to be replaced by unqualified and disreputable appointees, and in some cases, former convicts from the officer corp of the Fiji military. Promotion of a military culture is also now promoted and encouraged at the school level through cadet training as a ploy to fraudulently instil values, which the military itself regularly trash. It is hypocrisy and school pupils are being exploited by the State through the control of the military.
Militarism normalised as ideal worthy of promotion nation wide!

One of the defining features of militarism is its obsession at preserving the unity of the State. This view traditionally coincided with the native Fijian Strong State Ideology, one of regarding the State as intrinsically part of them thereby engendering a sense of ownership and reliance. This sense of ownership then extends to the ruling government of the day, even though they represent a political party and rule only temporarily. A case in point is the tendency by some Fijians to even refer to the Bainimarama regime as “our” government, even though no one elected nor wanted them in the first place. How often has Bainimarama himself reported as referring to the people of Fiji as “my people”?  

This view of the State often tends to be the case in countries where key groups, like native Fijians in Fiji, and unlike Maori in New Zealand, had a major and willing part in forming the State. France, owing to the popular revolution of 1790, also have a strong state ideology, unlike the US, which has a Weak State Ideology, as evidenced by the various anti-government actions and the tendency of states to fight control by the federal government.
Cadet training in Fiji schools - instilling values regularly trashed by Fiji military

Militarism in Fiji will not succeed in the long term for the same reasons it has failed in other countries. Rule via command and control may work in the military and military-type situations, it just does not work in places with a growing educated class and in a world that is globally connected. For Fiji it is like fixing current problems with old tools, no different to the old RFMF Volkswagen jeeps that used to carry officers around Suva.

Using State apparatus and machinery to dismantle key native Fijian institutions and practices in government without seeking their input will only weaken Fijians’ attachment and loyalty to the State. Worse still, when the machinery of government and its actors, have been instrumental in denying their human rights, freedom and ability to decide their own government and the political parties to represent them. Torture, murders and brutalities committed by the armed forces and Police under the current regime, reveal the dark side to rule under militarism.  Fiji style, the State and its organs, have become the source for evil and not just for good. The command and control mentality of militarism does not allow nor understand the virtues around freedom, transparency and accountability to the public and tax payers. Faced with this onslaught, Fijians have two possible responses arising from the unfolding developments.

The political response would be the typical one as currently employed by political parties now faithfully carrying out the most unreasonable of demands by the current regime. Despite having to jump through countless hoops, political parties have registered their interest to take part in returning Fiji to democratic elections in 2014. The ultimate prize they seek is control of government machinery to implement their party manifesto and reverse the current regime’s repressive policies. In that sense, they will seek to curry favour with the electorate into relying on their government to address their concerns and meet their needs. It will be in their interest to promote a Strong State Ideology. This may well run counter to those wishing to see a more devolved form of governance involving greater partnership with the State instead of ongoing dependence.

Fijians who regard the State in a bad light owing to the repressive rule and policies of the Bainimarama dictatorship, will welcome a greater decoupling of the link with State. For educated and middle class Fijians, this will be the best option to promote genuine partnership with the State. This approach will require them to be self sufficient and independent from the clutches of the government to enable them to relate in an unattached manner. It will also require Fijians to be forthright in asserting their rights to the use and exploitation of their land and resources by the State. They must demand fair and equitable return on access to, and use of, their natural resources and seek the return of their fisheries as promised and already assented to prior to independence. Historical grievances with the State relating to land must be addressed and compensation paid as a basis to promote economic development and independence. Far from regarding the State and government of the day as “their own” Fijians will instead come to regard the State as an entity to engage with for their own political and economic ends.

The regressive effect of militarism on Fijians is forcing a rethink in how they relate to the State and its machinery. Its traditional strong state ideology is slowly weakening as they perceive the use of State machinery to suppress their institutional practices and weaken their position and place in their own home land. While militarism will fail in Fiji for the same reasons it has in other nations, Fijians can recast their relationship with the State to their advantage and from a position of strength. To do this, they have to unshackle themselves from the clutches of the State and forge a relationship based on equal partnership. They must assert their rights to fair and equitable share for the return and use of their natural resources. They must regard and engage with the State and its entities as equals for their own development and in upholding their rights and place as iTaukei Fijians. 

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The fallen soldiers said...

the common enemy in parade.
very sad for Fiji and kaiviti.
quite ironic, the institution that used to uphold kaiviti solidarity and respect is the very one that is destroying it in the new Viti.

/m\ said...

i think kaiyum and shameem has inadvertently introduced traditional kaiviti style village rule in their new constitution. it is based on rule by the club (now guns) rather than rule by the rule of law. it is based on the (naïve and wishful)assumption that the army will always be wise enough to determine whats good governance for the people of Fiji and what moral standards the people must possess.
the Indians who are supporting this regime might find themselves on the other end of the barrel of the gun if the itaukei do not get to govern Fiji. that's the reality of Fiji society at the present time. this can only be changed through democratic processes and not by autocratic rule because the people have no say in it and they are only subservient to the dictator because they are unarmed and fear being brutalized without recourse. history has shown that u cannot repress human beings in this fashion like a herd of bulamakaus or vuakas.