#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Bringing Fiji back from the cold

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Bringing Fiji back from the cold

India must impress on New Zealand and Australia the need to engage with Fiji and persuade them to help Fiji implement a racially neutral policy

By Vidya S Sharma for Business Standard
Posted August 29

Entwined ... the flags of India and Fiji
Reluctance to supply uranium is most often mentioned by analysts and politicians as impeding closer relations between India and Australia.

Yet there is another issue that in the long term might turn out to be more harmful to India’s security than uranium. The issue, not on anyone’s radar, is Fiji.

Fiji is presently ruled by Commodore Voreque Bainimarama, who assumed power after removing the Qarase government in a bloodless coup d’etat.

In responding to Fiji’s political crisis in forums like the Commonwealth of Nations, India has mostly deferred to Australia. The rationale behind this has been Fiji’s distance from India and Australia’s proximity to it.

The approach of Australian governments (both Howard and Rudd) has been to publicly bully Fiji and demand the restoration of the old race-based constitution, yet not engage with Bainimarama because this would legitimise his regime. 

Australia has imposed harsh economic sanctions and travel bans that apply to all public servants. It has tried to isolate Fiji diplomatically by having it suspended from the Commonwealth. Australia has played divisive politics in forums like the Pacific Island Forum and Melanesian Spearhead Group to undermine Fiji.

Bainimarama came to power by overthrowing an elected government. He envisions a Fiji where everybody will be a Fijian irrespective of race and religion, and where elections will be based on a one-man-one-vote system. He has promised to promulgate such a constitution by 2013 and organise a parliamentary election by September 2014.

For the last 25 years, Fiji has been plagued by political instability that can be directly traced to the 1970 constitution, which legitimised a race-based voting system and empowered the Great Council of Chiefs to veto any legislation that in its view harmed indigenous Fijian interests. Under that system, Ratu Mara ruled Fiji until 1987 when he was defeated by Bavendra, an indigenous Fijian, in coalition with the party of Fiji-Indians.

Within weeks, the Bavendra government was deposed by Lt Col Rabuka. He handed over power to the then Governor-General, Ratu Ganilau. When Ganilau tried to reinstate the old constitution, Rabuka mounted another coup. In 1990 Rabuka promulgated a new constitution that guaranteed a parliamentary majority to ethnic Fijians. Due to divisions among various Fijian groups, the 1990 constitution was revised and a new constitution was promulgated in 1997.

The 1999 election saw Rabuka defeated and Mahendra Chaudhry become prime minister. In 2000 George Speight mounted a civilian putsch resulting in Qarase being installed as an interim prime minister. Qarase won the 2001 and 2006 elections narrowly. He openly implemented Speight’s policies. When Qarase wanted to pardon Speight in 2006, Bainimarama deposed him.

These have led Fiji to increasingly look towards China. The latter has been hyper-active in the entire South-West Pacific (SWP) region since the mid-1990s. It has the biggest number of diplomats of any country in SWP and is the second biggest aid-provider (about $200 million) after Australia ($450 million). It provides aid without any strings attached and sometimes in the form of cash grants.

With this aid have come Chinese immigrants. Fiji-Indians have been leaving the country since the ultra-nationalists first assumed power in 1987. New Chinese immigrants are replacing them as Fiji’s commercial class. Tonga and the Solomon Islands witnessed anti-Chinese riots in 2006. Most analysts believe that such riots could occur in Fiji also.

It is widely accepted that China’s long-term goal in the Pacific is to challenge US dominance. It is deepening its military ties with Tonga. Beijing hopes to weaken the US’s Pacific security fence by providing aid to and building military ties with SWP countries.

Travel restrictions have meant that many more young professionals are leaving Fiji instead of entering public service. Similarly, banking, construction and holiday resorts sectors (all dominated by Australian entities) are also hurting. Australian sanctions and the nature of Chinese aid are further weakening the already-weak civic institutions in Fiji.

Australian policies towards Fiji are hurting the long-term interests of both India and Australia. This does not mean that Bainimarama’s decision to impose media censorship and overturn the judiciary’s verdicts must be condoned. Fiji’s problems are complex and rooted in history: rivalry between Melanesians and Polynesian Fijians, tensions between Fijians and Fiji-Indians, a Methodist-Catholic divide among Fijians, new Chinese immigrants and a race-based constitution and electoral system.

Thus, it is difficult to fault Bainimarama’s analysis and vision. Merely insisting on the restoration of democracy or bullying Fiji is not the answer. He may be pursuing the wrong tactics, but his motives are worthy of support. India must impress upon Australia and New Zealand the need to engage with Fiji and persuade them to assist Fiji in its goal of implementing a racially-blind constitution and electoral system. Australia has a great deal of experience in fighting endemic racism.

If Australia were to persist with its present adversarial stance, Fiji’s economy will weaken further and poverty levels will rise. This could cause Fijian society to implode along one of its fault lines. It could create a split within the armed forces, making an already unstable region far more volatile. It is not difficult to buy a passport or launder money in SWP countries. India, being a long-standing victim of terrorism, needs to watch this geographical region closely.

The author is based in Melbourne and advises on country risk management, inter-country joint ventures and market penetration strategies.


mark manning said...

I tire of the assertion that this coup was " bloodless ", given that coincidentally, the helicopter pilot responsible for removing many Fijian Politicians to the safety of the outer islands and flying Mr. Qarase over Military roadblocks, thus denying Frank Bainimarama the opportunity to detain him and declare a state of emergency, legally, blew up the next day and died.

As for India wanting Uranium, it is not a signatory to the Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, subsequently, can't be trusted that it won't use the Uranium for Nuclear Enrichment for use in Nuclear Warheads.
In fact, the Indian Government has proved time and again, that it pretty well much can't be trusted on anything !

Whatever Bainimarama is proposing, could have been implemented through a Democratically elected government and its Parliament, there is no reason for a coup !

The Author of this article appears one eyed in his view, to say the least.

Anonymous said...

An ill informed Australian based Indian marketing guru waxing lyrical about Chinese intentions and strategies in Fiji - doesn't come any sillier - discounting Ms you know who of course. Maybe she can give him a job?

Anonymous said...

Bainimarama's main reason for staging the 2006 coup according to him was for a 'clean up' and not for Qarase's attempt to pardon Speight.In fact the reasons were elusive,baseless and unproven to date.

For the records.

Anonymous said...

Call the 1997 constitution what ever you want, the truth is that the document is the only legal document that Fiji should be forging it way with.

Fiji needs democracy as soon as possible through the provisions of the 1997 constitution, full stop.

No motives outside the provisions of the 1997 constitution should be supported and is worthy of support.

If matters have to be changed or ammended, they have to done within the legal framework of the constitution.
The April 2009, Court of Appeal decision is the testimony of what should be done. No pussy footing around the issue can deny the truth.

ex Fiji tourist said...

What a sick, pathetic attempt at giving credibility to a criminal and his incompetent junta.

I wonder if the families of those killed by the moronic military would welcome the term 'bloodless coup'?

I wonder if those pregnant women who were stomped upon by the moronic military would support this biased quasi-analysis.

The author lacks any credibility as he fails to explore the real purpose of the coup d'etat; to save bananasinpyjamas from going to prison for murder.

Maybe the author could have explored the reason why the jaundiced junta installed a useless, obese sailor as pretend police boss; to purge the police system of all evidence gathered about bananasinpyjamas' murder charges.

Now that it has been achieved, the hapless sailor is cast adrift by the desperadoes.

Unfortunately for bananasinpyjamas, copies of all files are kept in safe places; both in Fiji and in Australia. Andrew Hughes is a strategic thinker.

This quote from the diatribe shows up the authors blinkers to the real situation in Fiji.
"it is difficult to fault Bainimarama’s analysis and vision"

If you forget the lies about setting dates for elections [ 4 different dates in 3 years], forget the myth of racial harmony [ how many Indians in the military?], forget the fictional 'road map'; then you come to bananasinpyjamas ultimate aim which is ti install the military in power forever.

The parallels between bananasinpyjamas and the generals in poor Burma are strikingly similar.
If fools like this author persist with their cow-towing to a criminal regime, then the people of Fiji will vote for Bloggs of the military party or Smith of the military party.

For some strange reason, the military party will win.

Maybe in bananasinpyjamas new illegal constitution, it will be enacted that the military chief appoint 50% of the members of parliament.

I would suggest that the employer of this author should question the validity of any advice he gives to clients.

Anonymous said...

Who is is this Vidya Sharma, why ask India to press Australia/New Zealand to engage with Idiot Baini to bring neutral policy. His/Her article is another piece to make baini thrive on by loot and thugs.
He/she should just go to Fiji and ask baini to bring in neutral policy , who is stopping him to do, to start with why not declare all land a state land , no more ALTA, NLTA just state land. ASK HIM WHO IS STOPPING HIM TO DO. I beg people like Vidya stop writing. Fiji's real problem is people like Baini, Mahen C, Teleni, Sada Reddy , Mahen Reddy , Aias and Viday as well.

mongoose madness said...

What a load of rubbish. Here is a message to india and other gutless coup supporters. Go back to where you came from and leave the pacific to China, Australia and other pacific nations. And take the bhaini mongoose with you. Neither you, nor he, are wanted.

Fiji Democracy Now said...

Thank you for publishing one of the most twisted pieces of pro-Bainimarama propaganda we have ever seen. Another coup apologist has been exposed!

This one, as it turns out, pulls no punches. He deals the racist card in several ways, including a crude attempt to incite racial violence.

Then, after paying lip service to the well-documented human rights violations of the Bainimarama dictatorship, he turns around and praises the dictator's "analysis and vision." What a load of inane rubbish.

But the most transparent piece of propaganda is the assertion that the forthcoming social and economic disaster in Fiji will be all down to Australian and New Zealand sanctions.

No it won't. It will be all down to the economic crippling of Fiji by the undermining of investor confidence and the economy as the result of a mindless coup by that self-serving egomaniac, Voreqe Bainimarama.

Anonymous said...

Sharma has got it all wrong, his facts are all wrong and so are his analysis.

The people of Fiji spoke in 2006 through the ballot box and that needs to be respected.

That same constitution and the same electoral system which has been in use since 1999.

That is where the country draws on its leadership mandate which should be treated with respect.

Australia and New Zealand are for democracy now, and Fiji badly needs it for the sake of its people.

Da Maxi said...

The writer has got his brain in his ass and pu in his head.

Anonymous said...

Sharma should be reminded that Qarase's SDL party is the only party that has won elections in Fiji back to back since 1970, through an electoral system that had been used in three elections, and a constitution that has been in place since 1997.
Come on Sharma! Whether a party had won narrowly or through landslide victory, they were wins, which is what other parties could not achieve.
The race-based constitution that Sharma is talking about now has been in place in Fiji for over 10 years before being allegedly abrogated.What did you call the same document in 1999?.
Australia and New Zealand are not only appearing to be bullying Fiji for restoration of the so called race-based constitution, it is what the people of Fiji demand. The people want an elected government, they want their rights back, they want their freedom back, they want their constitution, they want justice, and while sanctions and pressures will mount externally and internationally, the voice of the people in Fiji will evetually triumph Sharma!