#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Has Fiji's military reached its Culminating Point?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Has Fiji's military reached its Culminating Point?

By Jone Baledrokadroka

Is the military regime, with the latest weekly bizarre resignations and suspensions, about to implode? The regime spin doctors would have us believe that everything is on track and that it is business as usual with the promised political reforms before the 2014 election. 
But as George Büchner, the German revolutionary, once dramatically said “Revolution is like Saturn, it devours its own children.” Saturn, of course, ate his own offspring in order to prevent one from killing him, as had been prophesised.
Robespierre, the man most responsible for chopping off the heads of many French nobles and then those of accused counter-revolutionaries, is said to have uttered the same words just before he was beheaded at the behest of someone else.  In essence: revolutionists usually end up victims of their own revolution.
It was the same in Russia during and after the Communist Revolution. Here, on our own shores the father of the Fiji coups, Major General Sitiveni Rabuka, suffered a similar, though less bloody, fate.
Former Police Commissioner Esala Teleni, and now the suspended Third Battalion commander, Lt Colonel Tevita Mara, are the latest to be devoured to ensure Commodore Bainimarama’s weekly survival. 

The adage “keep my friends close and my enemies closer” must be a constant on the mind of Bainimarama. For some four years after the 2006 coup, the list of those devoured for the sake of the ‘incorruptible’ dictator is now as long as  Fiji’s present climatic drought.
Bainimarama’s ship of state is looking more and more less seaworthy by the day as he tosses another of his coup lieutenants overboard. Lt Colonel Tevita Mara, through his chiefly ties, ‘business dealings’ and most likely political ambition, had become a major threat to Bainimarama’s very survival. 

So had Police Commissioner Esala Teleni, Bainimarama’s close Navy buddy. Both these officers’ blind military loyalty were crucial in the execution of Bainimarama’s cleanup coup, the two men providing the much-needed hard influential edge.
So, who are the soft influential edges? Apart from the phantom military council and known local citizens, Bainimarama is also being advised by former Fiji residents and academics, all close confidents in metropolitan Australia and New Zealand.

These armchair do-gooders backed the 2006 coup with high hopes of reforms dictatorship style. They also monitor international opinion for the regime.  

These coup apologists (some of them victims of former coups), whilst they enjoy the fruits of democracy in these countries are happy to let the poor natives taste some of their ‘own coup medicine’ and help Bainimarama transform Fiji into the paradise of the Pacific.  Some of these consultants and advisors have now run back to Australia and New Zealand, their pockets loaded with absolutely nothing to show for their efforts.

Four years down the track this utopian mirage seems to have evaporated in the harsh reality of international and regional non-acceptance and national economic ruin. The development dividend promised as a result of an ordered coup society  despite all the regimes spin doctoring is a myth. Why?
Postcolonial coup legacies have left a swathe of human despair and despondency among developing nations after much-promised military parade ground precision politics. 

For example in Nigeria when Army general and former President of Nigeria, Olusẹgun Obasanjo, came to power in a second tenure of military rule in 1999, the pathologies of militarized politics stemming from decades of corrupt military rule were extremely hard to root out. Similarly, in Ghana the militarization of politics and the politicization of the military had degrading effects on both military and political institutions.
On the other hand, in Latin America no military government per se remains today in stark contrast to the 1960’s and 1970’s. In Asia, half of the region’s 16 regimes were military or military backed in 1980. Now, only two are military controlled.

Will the ditching of Bainimarama’s rogue lieutenants finally bring the nation an improvement in social development, national security and international legitimacy? No. And according to Dr Kayode Fayemi, an expert on Nigeria’s ethnic military coups, what is required is:

  • Depoliticization and subordination of the military to civilian authority
  • Reorientation and reprofessionalizing the military, including redefining its roles and mission
  • Demilitarization of public order, policing and police reform, including reorientation of the police towards civil crime fighting
  • Balancing the demands of national defence with those of development
  •  Engage the international community in the security sector reform programme
With the ‘resignation’ of Esala Teleni and the ‘suspension’ of Tevita Mara the security sector is in dire need of reform as recommended  above. Otherwise, what will continue  to unfold is  another disastrous military misadventure  into politics.

The present politicized military has gone way past the culminating point. The culminating point in military strategy is the point at which a military force is no longer able to perform its operations. 

Naval Commander Joeli Cawaki, the Comissioner Western, understands  this point in regards to the present  state of the Sugar Industry, quote:  "The mill upgrade - for me - is a failure. It's supposed to be a success but it's a failure. We are not getting the TCTS that is supposed to improve it but on the other hand the performance is poor." ( FBC Radio News 13 Sep 2010). The recent unsolved and suspicious heist of a million dollars fuels rumours that may reinforce the point made. 

As all despots know, at the pinnacle of despotic power there is only room for one - the el Supremo. Even if it means devouring your once close lieutenants, because the truth is there will always be eager opportunist replacements. Sadly, for the nation the present military elite has taken the RFMF into deep political quagmire by the week.  

With former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in the new Labour government’s Foreign Affairs seat for the next three years, it may well be further diplomatic check-mate for Bainimarama.

The only option is national dialogue and immediate democratic elections with the military back in barracks, otherwise the peoples' suffering continues ... water shortages, droughts, huge sugar industry loses and all.

Pictures: Esala Teleni caricature and Tevita Mara.

Jone Baledrokadroka (right) is a former acting land former commander and a former member of the Great Council of Chiefs, who is now a PhD in politics candidate at ANU, Canberra.


Unknown said...

Sound analysis, JB. You could have gone all the way back to Julius Caesar, Xerxes and beyond. You'd think those guys would learn from history - but they probably don't bother to know it.
However, take a step forward and ask why does Fiji need a standing army?
All the coups have one common denominator - the RFMF.
No (unnecessary) army, no coups. It's that simple. When Frank's ramshackle regime implodes, as you predict and as I and many agree, an elected civil government should give that serious thought. The army won't be dissolved overnight - in fact there would be serious social consequences if it was tried but there have to better options for those young boys.
My forefathers joined the Black Watch (our local regiment recently disbanded) not out of any desire to kill the king's enemies but because there was nothing else for them. My generation was the first to opt out and thank god we did. But we were able to do so because there were better jobs available in a growing economy.
That's where Fiji has to go. I believe it can.
There is a massive worldwide reservoir of goodwill towards Fiji. It will come to the fore when Fiji is free again - but the army has to go, however gradually.
Cheers and keep writing.
Russell Hunter

Anonymous said...

Jone, Iam more than convinced that our recent history of severe instability with its tragic consequences, primarily caused by the military leaves us no other logical choice but to get rid of the Fiji Army.

The army for whatever reasons has turned inwards against Fiji Citizens and brought Fiji to its knees...its tragic. We have no external enemies to worry about. Our external security can be well looked after by NZ, Aust, USA and UK..


Judging by the extent of political, physical, economic, social and psychological damages the Army has inflicted on our country, the Fiji Army has become Fiji's number 1 enemy. SO WE MUST ABOLISH THE ARMY....we no longer can afford to have an army.

Incompetent Fiji military said...

Is there a military anywhere in the world more incompetent than the Fiji military under its current leadership?

Anonymous said...

4 years later and they still don't understand that they belong in the barracks and not leading a country. Did they think it was as easy as teaching in a Primary school! What a bunch of idiots and shallow brain deads!

Anonymous said...

100% agree with you Russel Hunter

mark manning said...

Have Fijians considered just how Frank got commissioned as commander in the 1st. place and I think that the Primary School Children could teach the Soldiers, not the other way around ! lols
Just what is the prerequisite for a person to become a member of the RFMF anyway ?
I'm guessing, " ah der " is pretty close ?

Radiolucas said...

Some have said that the UN bears some responsibility for the RFMF because of their use of our soldiers in peacekeeping missions.

Even when the army is reduced in size, the risk will always remain that violent people, with ambition, view violence as a method of obtaining wealth, power and prestige.

I would hope that Fiji develops alternative career paths for our young people - perhaps our athleticism and tourism industry?

Anonymous said...

afghanistan is in desperate need of army personnel...send them all there....they need to be occupied for what they have been trained for....peacekeeping in other countries but their own.

Anonymous said...

Fiji has become a joke..it made sense for FB to get rid of Teleni and Mara as he felt threatened by these two. The question is..what if there are plots to overthrow FB? I hope that will be the case.

FB should be thrown into jail and let the inmates entertain him

mark manning said...

What is there, if anything, that encourages Fijians to believe that they will be better off under Military rule in the 1st. place ?
Is there an elitist attitude, do some think they are more worthy than others, is it ignorance or a lack of education or is it just a question of feeling like the underdog, not title so i'll go out and get myself one ?
As for Soldiers and U.N. peace keeping deployments, the New Zealand and Australian Soldiers don't take up arms against their Governments, so why should Fijian Soldiers ?
Hitler had the same problem as Frank Bainimarama and he used to have the opposition murdered in the dead of night, and Saddam Hussein from Iraq was no different.
I think Fiji's problems lay deep within Fijian culture and their Community and that it's these issues that need to be resolved.
As for the military, perhaps they should be down sized to the 500 recommended to the Qarase government in 2006, or disbanded, with Military personnel deployed offshore to the other pacific Islands with australia and New ZEaland being in overall command etc.
Think of the great opportunities and increase in pay and conditions.
Frank was sent home from iraq in disgrace anyway wasn't he ?

Justice, Please said...

I'm reminded of an interview the dictator did with Radio Australia in July. Bainimarama will go to his grave believing he is doing the right thing by forcing these so-called reforms on Fiji.

Excerpts from the Phillipa Cunningham interview.

BAINIMARAMA: You can see me sitting here and not the military garb that the Australian and New Zealand press always put on TV and papers. I only go up to the camp every now and then, I leave the military to my Chief of Staff. But the military dictator, the title, came in 2006 because of what we did. But I kept saying, Philippa, that unfortunately for us here that the military is the only entity that can bring about the changes that we need to do. Military in Fiji is not like military in some African states where it's done for power, but not only power, the abuse of power. This is totally opposite. We want power of course but power to bring about the changes, and bring about the reforms that we need.

MCDONALD: Well in December it'll be four years since the coup, what have you achieved for Fiji?

BAINIMARAMA: We've come through a lot of reforms, we've done a lot of reforms that have never been done. We've talked about reforms that have never been talked about and accepted, we've done all those. We've removed some of the issues that have held us back, that has not opened the Fijian society to changes and reforms. We've done that over the last four years. And people will tell you in Fiji that that has happened.

MCDONALD: We're talking about land reform?

BAINIMARAMA: We're talking about land reforms, we're talking about our economy, we're talking about corruption, we're talking about the things that we talk about now that people did not allow 10 or 15 years ago because of the freedoms that are now brought about, or this government has brought about.

MCDONALD: Poverty's still a big issue here isn't it?

BAINIMARAMA: Poverty's a big issue everywhere, especially so in the small Pacific island developing states, we're not kidding anyone, but we'd like to get out of it.

MCDONALD: Because the squatter settlements have grown in numbers, 43 per cent of people living below the poverty line?

BAINIMARAMA: Yes, yes and it will grow because we're trying to stop that because of families that are trying to move into the urban areas for education, and most do that. And we're trying to keep that in the rural areas so they don't have to come up. So what we do is where there are secondary schools that go up to form five level, we build a couple of additional schools and ask the Education Department to provide teachers so that they go up to the form seven level, so that the parents and the kids and the students stay out in the rural areas. But then we must also take out to the rural areas things that are bountiful here in the urban areas, such as employment and work.

Justice, Please said...

More of Baini's blind belief that a wrong rights a wrong:

MCDONALD: The international community has been very critical of your media decree, particularly on the restrictions on reporting and now the ban on foreign ownership. You've also got emergency laws in place. Why do you need them?

BAINIMARAMA: We need them Philippa to bring about the changes, we have to have those laws in place to bring about the reforms that we have. If we don't have them we will never get these reforms in place, and this is the only time we can bring those reforms in place. We are not political.

MCDONALD: Well you've had a state of emergency for some time now, haven't you got to the stage where you can trust the people, because you haven't got any opposition?

BAINIMARAMA: No, no, no, it's not that, it's about bringing stability to the land, and we can't afford people just speaking out of turn, we can't afford chiefs for instance who've been politicised to stand up and make unjustified comments. We can't afford our tala talas our preachers to stand up because these are the people that the indigenous population listen to. We need to keep them at a low level so that we can bring about the reforms. And that's the bit that the international community don't understand, that bit about us coming up with all these laws just so that we can bring about the reforms. This is the only one opportunity the people of this nation have, and especially this government has. If we lose this opportunity we'll never have this time and opportunity again to bring about the reforms for the betterment of our people. And if this doesn't happen, we and my government and the military will be blamed for that. So we're not leaving any loopholes.

PS: As said, it has been four years but still Fiji is in turmoil and as most know now, this coup might've originally been grounded in purity but is now about those in power cashing in on spoils of war.

The military rule has go, either gradually as has been said or in one fell swoop.

Anonymous said...

Basically nothing wrong with current core of FMF - problem lies in leadership (lack of).

Those seeking abolitioin should familiarise themselves with - social implication of - the term Rascal?

mark manning said...

Real Soldiers would have resigned in protest, not stayed on hiding behind Frank Bainimarama's sulu for the sake of their ( bread and butter ) !
What a lame excuse !
The true Soldiers did resign !

Anonymous said...

Is it that difficult for the current 'untainted' core that keep the white elephant in existence put their misplaced loyalty to an illegal regime aside, put the interest of their country first and tender a mass resignation across the board - a drastic but non-violent and non-confrontational measure... and whilst there will be immediate short-term pains, the benefits of haltering the runaway train they're riding on, in the long run can only be for the good of the country. This is just so in order to purge the tainted and corrupt few at the helm who are holding the entire country at ransom... for without the military, the inner circle of advisors to Voreqe et al would wilt...

After elections, if the people so wish, they can rebuild a smaller but professional unarmed military outfit to complement the police force.

Anonymous said...

Khaiyum is in control and no way will the Military Council or the indegenous Fiji Military stand up to him as they are shit scared of him.

We the Indian community are so proud of you as you implement decisions that will ultimately see the Fiji Military destroy themselves without a finger raised against Fiji Indians.

We Fiji Indians fully support your methods of bringing back democracy to Fiji through the ballot box and non violent means.

Anonymous said...

A "professional unarmed military".

Say there's a contradiction in that somewhere?

mark manning said...

Professional doesn't mean expert !
It merely means you get paid for what your chosen profession is, it doesn't mean your good at it necessarily.
As an Ambulance Officer in Sydney, I was often told by people with more years experience than me, that they had been in the job longer !
The trouble was, I suggested is, you have continued to make the same mistakes over and over, never improving your skills !
Years of Service, I suggested, does not necessarily equate to a level of expertise, but does open the possibility, that you continue to repeat the same mistakes over and over, for many years without learning from those same mistakes.

As for the RFMF becoming unarmed, what's the point in having a Military Force, without the Force aspect of that concept ?

Has anyone noticed anyway, that already the Soldiers of the RFMF often don't carry magazines on their weapons and if they did, they are probably empty ?