#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: From island boy to island boy

Monday, April 12, 2010

From island boy to island boy

He is by no means perfect having caught the flak of 15,000 Samoans who turned out for what was probably the country's largest protest demonstration last year, when he decided to do the unthinkable - change driving from the right hand to the left hand side.

Yet, Sailele Tuilaepa Malielegaoi, the prime minister of Samoa, generally has a reputation for fair government, though critics of the Human Rights Political Party would rush to challenge this.

Tuilaepa's weekend comments about Fiji's illegal government and self-appointed leader, Voreqe Bainimarama, was all the more credible because it came from someone who has mana in the Pacific, someone who, unlike the spokespeople of New Zealand and Australia, has been unafraid to mince his words.

The 64 year old Samoan leader called it as he saw it: Bainimarama is a dictator who has turned Fiji upside down, using hastily concocted legislation to keep himself in power; a despot who keeps putting the screws on the people of Fiji.

Sure, the New Zealand prime minister and his Foreign Affairs Minister, John Key and Murray McCully, have fired at Bainimarama; so too have their Australian peers, Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith.

But none have had the firepower of Tuilaepa, the veteran politician and economist who has the audacity to make fun of  Bainimarama. His comments throughout this recent interview on the Fiji military hardman were interspersed with laughter, something only someone from the taro or cassava patch would get away with. Quote: "I wouldn’t be surprised if his next decree is to change the Fiji national anthem. Instead of God Bless Fiji, it will be God Bless Bani. For Bani instead of For Fiji, the all-knowing, the all-enlightening God-sent Bani. All hail Bani!"

Even Tuilapea's insistence he's not criticising Bainimarama had a sting: “It’s not really criticism - its advice. It’s like watching somebody trying to jump over a cliff. So I’m actually consoling my friend Bani. Trying to help him, pointing him out the error of his ways.”

The dialogue New Zealand and Australia (and aid donors) seem determined to maintain with Fiji, needs more of Tuilaepa's bluntness. This archery enthusiast (he won a silver medal in the 2007 South Pacific Games) has quite nicely demystified Bainimarama, cutting the junta leader down to size as just another island boy who needs a good hiding.


Samoa slaps the dictator said...

The PM of Samoa (a real PM not one weilding a gun) has openly laughed and poked fun at the clown dictator of Fiji. He has compared bianimarama to hitler, mussolini and mugabe.
Bainimarama, his family and his useless regime have become the laughing stock of the Pacific and internationally!

Anonymous said...

Greece is often regarded as the birthplace of democracy - but there's an old Pacific adage.

"God help the Islander who doesn't do what the Chiefs say - God help the Matai who don't do what the people say".

Not known as the Brainboxes of the Pacific for nothing.

Light years ahead in many fields.
What Fiji could have been without Indians.

For Fiji said...

Wisdom also came out of Greece, with the likes of Socrates et al. There's wisdom around our own kiava bowl but it's wisdom too often compromised by an unworldliness that makes it easier for people like Voreqe Bainimarama to win the day. The unworldliness wraps us in fear and holds us back.

Radiolucas said...

@ Anon. April 12, 2010 1:21 PM

Blaming "the Indians" for what has happened to Fiji is not fair at all and detracts from the point - race has nothing to do with it.

Fiji's problem stems from corrupt individuals, not ethnic groups, who in contempt of the law and in contempt of any respect for the people, choose to seize power and money for themselves.

The lessons of history for these people are very clear - Dictators and their cronies usually find their end in violence and imprisonment for their crimes. They are never remembered for their lies and false justifications, they are remembered for the crimes they inflict on the history of a nation.

TheMax said...

I have to laugh reading this article. The writer must be the same person the Samoan PM employed full time to write articles critical of Bainimarama while praising himself. The whole idea is to promote the Samoan PM as some kind of Pacific statesman. Sorry Tui, you will always be the wannabe to the crown of real Pacific statesmanship. Only a few Pacific leader can claim that crown.

New leaders are emerging now who can stand up to the big brothers of Australia and New Zealand. And you Tuilaepa will always be the sellout prodigal son of the Pacific brotherhood.

Anonymous said...

World leasders should take their cue from the Samoan PM when dealing with Fiji. That isthe only laguage Baini understands.

Liu Muri said...

This is an extract of a presentation at last year's Pacific Islands Political Association Conference held at Auckland University. This was presented by a Doctoral Samoan student:

"When one thinks of ‘dictatorship’, infamous figures like Benito Mussolini, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong-il, Robert Mugabe, and in more recent times, Frank Bainamarama immediately come to mind. However no other figure in the history of the world has epitomised dictatorship as Adolf Hitler. Other than having been administered by Germany from 1900 to 1914 as well as a rather large German-Samoan community, Samoa has rarely been associated with Germany let alone Hitler.

However, more recently, the names Tuila’epa and Hitila [or Hitler] have often been used in the same sentence. The first time I came across the Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi being linked to Hitler was in a Samoa Times article a couple of years ago where Apia pulenu’u or mayor Tuiletufuga Siaosi called Tuila’epa “o le atali’i moni a Hitila” – the true son of Hitler. This statement came as a result of the Prime Minister ignoring the wishes and petitions of Apia people to stop proposed gas pipes being laid through their townships.

Earlier this year, Savea Sanoa Malifa wrote an article in the Samoa Observer entitled “Suiga o le itu auala fa’amanatu mai ai Atofu Hitila” – the changing of the roads has reminded us of Adolf Hitler (Malifa 2009b). He writes that Hitler conducted all things without informing and consulting anyone other than his closest allies and he alludes to this as being the exact same for the road changes in Samoa. Former opposition leader Asiata Saleimoa Va’ai wrote that history shows that political parties in the past who have dominated governments for many years have often become dictatorial and communist in their ways, giving the examples of Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Hussein in Iraq and of course Hitler in Germany. This he says is becoming the case with Tuilaepa and Samoa (Va'ai 2009).

So the question is, are these comparisons and accusations justified? Is Samoa currently being ruled under a dictatorship, or is there still a semblance of democracy? Well firstly, the fact that the word democracy does not exist in either of the two most recognised published Samoan dictionaries is a reminder that this is a concept that was not only introduced, but one that today still conjures up mixed opinions. Democracy [in the western sense] is indeed still in its infancy when compared to the long history of pule fa’amatai (chiefly authority) in Samoa. In reality, democracy as we know it has really only existed in Samoa since 1990 with the introduction of universal suffrage."


Anonymous said...

Sorry - but any which way you look at it? - Fiji's history would have been very diferent without Indians.

For 1. Bainimarama is using Indians
as justification for his actions.

Could go on - but won't - immediate problem is dictator - not Indians.

Tim said...

Actually Radiolucas, blaming Indians is not only not fair, it simply serves to HIDE the problem.
Fiji "Indians", or Fijians of Indian ethnicity do have a problem undoubtedly. Like Indigenous Fijians they wish to survive and prosper, and participate in an economy they have given blood sweat and tears to build. Now in this environment, those that realsise that the solution won't come from shitting on the indigenous population will become part of the solution. Unfortunately there are too many who've been shat on and who have misplaced the blame on the indigenous population have yet to learn that their problems are actually down to the colonisers of days gone by - any their modern day equivalents - that is all those opportunist assholes and insecure individuals who want to take the easy option. And they are those that haven't succeeded on merit but are the usurpers and usurers. The Bainimaramas, the Khaiyuums, the Shameens, the Dritis and Telenis - ALL those that have adopted the born-to-rule attitude from whatever ethnic flavour who now look to blame rather than to analyse their own shortcomings.
If you see a solution in blaming "Indians" then prepare yourself for a life of turmoil.
And if those "Indians" see a solution in resorting to guns and force everytime they strike it hard, same shit - different stink.

Colonisation and Empire has caused problems WHEREEVER it has occured.

There was once hope, and it lay in allowing a democracy to evolve and develop. It never has been perfect and its always been a work in progress, but its always been a safer and more peaceful option than anything that comes with dictatorships and totalitarianism.

It's rather sad that after 2 or 3 decades and 4 coups the reasons for Fiji's problems STILL appear to be racially blame-oriented, rather than ego and lust for power oriented.

If "Indians" see their saviour as the likes of a coup such as this then more fool them. Somehow I doubt it when it comes down to it or there would not be such a declining population.
BUT equally if the Indigenous see their saving grace in this junta, then prepare yourselves to be totally and utterly ripped off (as if what has happened in the past 4 years should not be reminder enough).

Woods and trees!.

There is commonality amongst most of the participants in this current junta.
Most are not exactly the brains of Britain, and if they are they come with that colonial paternalistic attitude.
Most are over ambitious and under-achievers.
Most are egotists.
Most crave publicity.
Most are scared that they can't survive by any means that relies on a degree of legitimacy (by whatever measure - such as popular support, freedom of expression, fair representation, etc.)
They all rely on illegitimate force or the threat of it.
Hello people.....show me where in history that's ever been a sustainable option.
And the biggest joke of all is this concept of amnesty as though it provides some eternal protection.
'Fraid not fellas. Never has and never will.
You can either work towards pacifying and appeasing those that inevitably have legitimacy, or forever watch your backs.
And for those that try to appease and pacify the illegitimate, they're only slightly better off than having to constantly watch their backs.

I'm not just sure, I'm CERTAIN that had I a spare 40 grand, Frank's boci guards would turn their heads and Frank would be in Cassava patch training.

Frank is paranoic and smart enough to know that his ONLY option was and is to continue to corrupt all the agencies of state. Just a shame Australia and NZ haven't come to terms with the inevitable (especially over the past 18 months).
The judiciary also realises that their only short-sighted means of survival is to bend over and prepare to take it, or get the hell out.

That's all as long as they carry on their current programme.
There are howver solutions - it's just that this junta doesn't actually have the balls to consider them

Anonymous said...

Race and ethnicity we all know are just convenient fronts to 'vesu mona' the gullible. Race and ethnicity were never the problems. The problem was, is and will always be the UNSCRUPULOUS INDIVIDUALS who covet wealth, position, status and power at the expense of everyone else's welfare and well being!

Anonymous said...

Liumuri whatever the Samoan PM did is being done through proper authority and he remains PM by virtue of the will of the people.

Baini is no where near that. You get ma drift.

Anonymous said...

@RadioLucas & Others.

Agree - race has nothing to do with it - culture however does.

Never ceases to amaze that whenever
critism is levelled against Indians 2 words always appear - racism & colonialism (British).

Suggest you read Ratu Mara's Tuimacilia? Give you an insight into attempted 9failed) Indian colonialism?
Quotes such as the infamous "You can all swim back to Africa" have not been forgotten - nor has Indian refusal to defend Fiji in its hour of greatest crisis & threat.(WW2).

So don't start claiming persecuted victim status - it simply won't wash -Indians have form - carry much historical baggage.

Would Fiji have been diferent (better)without Indians?
No brainer - whichever way you look at it?

Indian culture is by nature arrogant - individualistic & predatory - does not travel or assimilate well - at odds with Pacific cultures such as iTaukei which is communial.

No offence - but the sooner your all gone (emigrate) - better things will be for the iTaukei.

Radiolucas said...

@ Malo et al

It is ridiculous and not a little insulting to our intelligence to compare the Dictatorship in Fiji to the Samoan Government.

It is also a spurious argument to say that "democracy" is foreign to Samoa/Fiji etc and therefore it should not be applied. The same argument can be made for nearly all countries, given that Democracy is a Greek and Roman concept. It is not an excuse to say that western morals and ideas cannot be applied to Pacific nations because:

(a) it is insulting to the intelligence of the people as it assumes a level of cultural "sophistication" - as if we cannot learn how to elect leaders as the rest of the western world has; and

(b)it assumes a kind of cultural relativism - the idea that notions of ethics and moral behaviour are filtered by our cultures - this is a threat to the idea of universal human rights because it means that we would have to racially discriminate - are you prepared to do this?

In any event, Samoa still has notionally free elections - so whether or not the people choose to elect another PM is still their choice. Samoa's Newspapers even have the freedom to claim that their PM is Hitler because he changed the road rules (which is more than a little absurd).

In contrast, Fiji does not have any choice or any such freedom any more. From its role as an influential young nation in the pacific region, Fiji has been systematically reduced to the status of a pariah state, designed for the edification and to the whims of a despot and his cronies.

Fiji no longer has an independent judiciary, police force or media. There is no freedom of assembly, Fijian are denied basic human rights to voice their opinions.

Despite these self-evident facts, coup apologists still have the temerity to draw comparisons with democratic countries and make ridiculous justifications for Bainimarama's Dictatorship.

@ Tim

I take your points and I agree that racial politics have been flagged by the Dictatorship as a reason for the coup - in an attempt to hide the obvious.

However I am not sure that blaming colonial culture is enough - although I have not read anough on it, I expect that the reason why the army has been involved in seizing power (in every coup) is that Fiji has a very large military force that has continually assumed the role of "final arbiter" of politics - accordingly when the last elected government sought to curtail their political influence, Bainimarama installed himself in government.

Whether or not this is as a result of some sought of colonial hangover is not very clear to me but if you can direct me to some articles or texts I would be very interested.

Anonymous said...

The Max: You doppy; standing up to NZ & Aust is not the issue. The issue is Baini's illegal activities.

P'fika observer said...

Then woes of Fiji are lessons for all Pacific nations, as are the gains of Samoa in recent years. Fa'a Hamoa has a lot to account for, in the 70s it was well noted that many of Samoa's youngest and finest males were killing themsleves because of the pressure of living up to cultrual traditions, espoused under fa'a samoa. It was noted, and is generally recognised that the Samoan hierarcyhy system (chief matai downwards) has done much to harm its peoppele, especially the young. Add to that, the hypocrisies of the Church (the white's man version taken and adpated island stye)and you have a pretty brutal system. But it's a far, far cry from the wilful taking of power by Bainimarama from the elected government and all of the subsequent dictatorial policies that have emerged in the past three years. Add to that, the latest efforts to keep oppressing the citizens of Fiji, and the media decree that now seeks to silence the fourth estate. The obnoxious Baini and Khaiyum are too far gone in their own distorted convictions to turn back, hence the immunity pact. They should really be tried in an international court.

Also Jon said...

Radiolucas, the source that I suggest you read is ‘The 2006 Military Takeover in Fiji’ by Jon Fraenkel, Stuart Firth and Brij Lal.

An excerpt from pages 117 – 118 follows
“Yet Fiji’s regular military force when the British left in 1970 was but 200 strong and played little more than a symbolic role in national affairs. Its best days seemed far behind; if it had remained in that role, the course of events in Fiji would have been quite different.

Why, then, did the military forces become dominant in independent Fiji? Nation-building by the country’s first independent government played a minor part. The force grew modestly in the early 1970s. Fiji’s first prime minister, Ratu Mara, enhanced the size of the force somewhat by giving it a nation-building role and by establishing a trade training school, a rural development unit and the RFMF naval squadron. Peacekeeping for the United Nations did most to stimulate the growth of the force. Tens of thousands of Fijians have served in foreign theatres in almost thirty years of peacekeeping. Solid links were forged with counterparts in the British, Australian and New Zealand defence forces. The overall effect has been to boost the morale of officers and troops – especially when they are on operational duty – and to professionalize the RFMF as a military institution. Typically, Fiji’s leading military officers have been better educated and more articulate than many of Fiji’s civilian politicians.

The force grew from 800 to 1,300 in 1978 in order to provide a light battalion of 500 to the UN. When 2FIR, the 2nd Fiji Infantry battalion, went to the Sinai in 1982 the force grew to 1,800. By 1986, following further UN requests, the force had grown to 2,200. The RFMF’s involvement in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was initially intended to last no longer than a year or so but continued uninterrupted until the end of 2002. Over the 22 years of the UNIFIL deployment, south Lebanon was temporarily home to thousands of Fijian soldiers, some of whom witnessed the Qana incident of April 1996, when an Israeli artillery barrage killed about 100 Lebanese civilians.4 The commitment to the Multinational Forces and Observers (MFO) in the Sinai continues a quarter of a century later.

The Fiji battalion there has a headquarters company and three infantry companies, with a total strength of 329, and maintains a number of remote sites in the region, six checkpoints and five observation posts. Over the 30 years since 1978, around 25,000 Fiji soldiers have served on overseas peacekeeping missions, bringing home an estimated US$300 million. In recent years the Iraq War has brought more income to Fiji from the 1,000 or so Fijians who have served as escorts, guards and drivers for companies in the business of privatised security in war zones such as Global Strategies, Triple Canopy, ArmorGroup International, DynCorp International, Control Solutions and Sandline International.

According to Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, a former UN peacekeeper, ‘our economy has no choice but to build armies, and it's a good business. There are few other foreign investments. If we didn't do this, our people would be in the street creating havoc’

How ironic is Col Tikoitoga’s comment in the light of events since 1987….

Also Jon said...

By the way - you can download a copy of the book from the site:
It makes interesting reading

Radiolucas said...

@ Jon

Thanks for that. I will read it.

From the excerpt alone isn't the blame on not only the colonial powers but the UN, NZ and Australia for encouraging the military's growth to feed the UN's need for (good) soldiers?

Anonymous said...

Jon Jon, would the answer to Fiji's miseries lie in diestablishing the army? It has been said, of course, that you can get rid of the wanna be coup leaders and, thereore foil, all coups by stripping Fiji of its guns. For any democratcially elected government to survive after 2014, the men in green have to be disarmed, and the armed forces reduced to a more acceptable size. For while they were trained up to serve its country, they've instead been serving coup governments. Any government comimng after this illegal regime must try to keep the army where it belongs - QE barracks.

Jon said...


I don’t feel that the blame is on the ‘colonial powers’ (by which I assume you mean the UK) at all. As the excerpt noted, at the time the British left in 1970 Fiji regular force was about 200 strong and played a largely ceremonial role. The force then ‘grew modestly’ and was enhanced in size by Ratu Mara giving it a nation building role.

So far then, the British left Fiji with as small an army as it has ever had and Fiji’s own statesman decided to increase it modestly. Hardly the fault of the Brits, what?

Australia and NZ aren’t mentioned as being instrumental in any increase and I feel that, assuming they took their self appointed role as guardians of the Pacific seriously, they would have been inclined to try to limit any large increase in military force.

As far as your contention that the UN was to blame, I beg to differ. Japan and Germany consistently refused to provide armed forces to the UN for many years, however poorer countries saw UN service as a means to obtain income. No doubt the UN played on that, but it could only do so if aided by the 3rd world countries acquiesce to supplying young men and women for service. None were ever conscripted.

To Anonymous at 3.17pm, I feel that Ratu Mara’s original vision for the FMF – that of helping nation building, was the most promising. Indeed, I feel there could be a strong argument for compulsory National Service to be introduced in Fiji whereby those members of the nation’s youth who do not enter tertiary education spend a year, or possibly two, in a demilitarised FDF (Fiji Development Force).

The FDF could be run by a small number of permanent military, but be staffed by engineers, road builders, electricians, electronics engineers etc. In other words a version of the Royal Engineers. Skilled personnel would be able to impart their knowledge to the nation’s youth and hopefully they would come out of their national service with a trade, having spent 2 years developing their skills in the field for the betterment of the rural areas.

Anonymous said...

2 years compulsory military training for all youths?

Reads good - no doubt intention good also - only problem is if this was implemented (training Kai Dia) it would only be a matter of time before Fiji became another Sri Lanka. Thanks but no thanks.

Tim said...

@Radiolucas. You're right of course and my terminology incorrect. By Colonisation and Empire I was referring more to imperialistic and paternalistic attitudes that so often came with it. Prevention of self-determination of indigenous populations, arbitrarily defining borders based on the needs of the coloniser, exploitation of resources without adequate recompense, and so on. As we know, there are a few places on Earth where populations don't wish to have the apron strings cut.

Jon said...

Anonymous 5.42pm
Like you, I abhor the idea of compulsory 'military' training. Especially of a disaffected youth with little education and few prospects.

I actually wrote that there could be compulsory National *Service* in a *demilitarised* Fiji Development Force.

If you would kindly re read my post, you'll see that practical training in practical subjects which would be of benefit to Fiji was the aim of my idea.

Certainly not teaching a man or woman how to kill people...!

The only reason for keeping a small military component is that such (hand picked) CO's and NCO's would be well versed in the psychology of instilling discipline in those young people who might have been allowed to run free in their latter school years, without fear of reprisal from teachers or parents.

sara'ssista said...

I am with Jon, I entirely agree. The vision this miltary has is distorted and is the best traditions of the south american or african junta. What next North Korea, Zimbabwe and Burma will be conducting joint exercises with the Fiji Military.

Anonymous said...

Have been following the Red Shirt protests in Thailand and note that 21 people died (hundreds wounded) over the weekend, after heavy stoushes with police and army as Red Shirts tying to derail current govt to bring back Thaksin Shinawatra. Unfair to compare Fiji to Thailand and its thousands but I merely point to it to suggest this: the thai's are fighters and will risk life and limb for the caue, the fijians are not