|BALI BOMBING: More than 200 people died, many of them Austtalians. BELOW: Osama bin Laden, links in the region.|
Editors Note: As debate on the role of the Fiji military in the affairs of our nation intensifies, we have decided to reproduce excerpts of the highly controversial and secretive Defence White Paper whose contents Victor Lal had exposed shortly before the 2006 coup. Coupfourpointfive argues the Report was one of many factors which prompted the dictator to seize power.
The small Muslim community in Fiji, which has historically proved conspicuously law-abiding and loyal to the country, was a potential incubator for religious zealots in the age of al-Qaeda related global terrorism, said the controversial and secretive Defence White Paper (DWP) 2004 that was prepared for the previous SDL government.
But in order to counter the influence and infiltration of the al-Qaeda in the country the Fiji Muslims, the Defence Paper recommended, should be recruited as an ally for the Fiji authorities in the war on global terrorism. The Nadi international airport was another potential terrorist target from international Islamic terrorists, warns the DWP.
Global terrorism had global reach, and therefore, said the DWP, threatened Fiji. Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network of Islamic extremists had links to organisations in Southeast Asia such as Jemaah Islamiyah and Laskar Jihad. While such groups had more reason and opportunity to mount attacks within Southeast Asia than in the Pacific Islands, the Bali bombings in 2000, the DWP stated, showed the havoc that can be caused by a single attack on an international tourist destination. Australians, who were an increasing proportion of Fiji’s tourists, may have been a specific target in the Bali bombing. This was because of Australia’s close alliance with the United Sates of America, the DWP noted.
As regards the potential terrorist attack on international airports, especially the Nadi international airport, the DWP pointed out that such an attack could take the form of a bombing within or close to the airport terminal, the placement of a bomb on an aircraft, the hijacking of an aircraft bound either to or from Fiji, or the launching of a short-range missile by a terrorist near the perimeter of the airport against an aircraft landing or taking off.
Moreover, according to the DWP, Fiji was vulnerable not only as a target for international terrorism, but also as a transit point for terrorists organising an attack elsewhere in the region. A terrorist attack targeted against the transport our tourism industry anywhere in the region, and especially in Fiji, would have a devastating impact on the national economy of the country.
Although the DWP did not directly impute any terrorist intention to the Muslim community of Fiji, it did highlight the danger of al-Qaeda inspired infiltration of the community: ‘The small Muslim community in Fiji, mainly Sunni but with a minority of Shia adherents has historically proved to be conspicuously law-abiding and loyal to Fiji. The community is unlikely to harbour or tolerate Muslim extremists. The Muslim community should be recruited as an allay for the authorities in the war on terrorism, but the conjunction of anti-Americanism, Fijian participation in Iraq’s transition-despite being on private contract-and perceptions of discrimination at home is a potential incubator for zealots.”
In a separate but related analysis of Fiji’s participation in the Iraq conflict, the DWP however discounted any potential threat to the country’s internal security from the former soldiers and police recruited by the Global Risks Strategies (GRS) to act as guards and escorts in Iraq. The three-member Committee had also consulted the GRS in the preparation of the DWP.
There was some concern, noted the DWP, that returning GRS employees who failed to find other employment may become a security risk themselves. This may be so but the people employed have previous military or police training so this ‘industry is not adding to he potential problem of unemployed miscreants with military skills’.
Moreover, the DWP concluded, ‘they have witnessed the political power of the gun at home so will not be exposed to anything new there either’.
On 21 February 2003, the Sudanese-born Sheikh Majid was expelled from Fiji, despite being resident here for 18 years, when his work permit expired. The Fiji immigration authorities, acting on US and Australian ‘intelligence’ reports, claimed that Sheik Majid represented a security threat, despite non-disclosure of the alleged evidence. Sheik Majid was the director of the Islamic Institute of the South Pacific, based in Suva, and had worked closely with Fiji’s Muslim community.
The president of the Fiji Muslim League and former Government senator Hafiz Khan, while denying that the expulsion was a part of the anti-Muslim phenomena sweeping around the world, had however expressed regret at the manner and haste in which Sheik Majid was expelled from Fiji.
The immigration officials had found $30,000 cash in the Sheik’s home, the money said to be a gift from a wealthy Saudi benefactor to the Fiji Muslims to celebrate Ramadan. The Muslim community had claimed that it was aware of the large funds and that no money had been spent without the approval of the Fiji Muslim Council.
The former Director of Immigration, Joseph Browne, went out of his way to reassure the Fiji Muslims that they were not being specifically targeted as a special religious group. Following Sheik Majid’s expulsion, on March 3, Fiji signed an “anti-terrorism” pact with the Australian government. A year later, in 2004, the DWP once again focused on the Fiji Muslims.
Although the DWP had been with the SDL government since 2004, it was only in 2006, during the election campaign, and following the dangerous standoff between the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, that the former admitted its existence. Prime Minister Qarase however had refused to divulge the contents or recommendations contained in the DWP.
Editor’s sub note: While the DWP had focused on the Shia and Sunni elements in the Fiji community, it had completely overlooked the non-mainstream Ahmadiyya Muslims – who after the 2006 coup provided the bulk of support to the dictator – the Tablibanistic illegal Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, Brigadier-General Aziz Mohammed, the Shameem Sisters, Dr Sahu Khan other Ahmadiyyas who joined various Boards and Commissions and the membership of the Peoples Charter.