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 contributor 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 and to plunder the nation.
In the Defence White Paper’s opinion, the RFMF was disoriented after years of policy neglect, the 2000 events and their aftermath, and withdrawal from Lebanon. Though the RFMF restored order in Fiji, it did not display cohesion throughout the events of 2000.
The Committee noted in its Report: ‘Fiji has a strategic interest in the cohesion and professionalism of the RFMF. The RFMF is widely credited with ‘saving the nation’ in 2000 but in doing so it exhibited internal strains based on provincial rather than national loyalties.’ Provincialism also undermined the unity of the RFMF in the 2000 crisis.
Several key personalities shared their time, knowledge, and experience to provide the background and information on which the review was based. The Committee also consulted the then Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes. The DWP concluded that the principal decision to be made was whether the police were to be given full responsibility for maintaining order. If so, judgements were needed as to when they would be ready to assume those responsibilities.
To recapitulate, the Government, the DWP recommended, needed to give the RFMF a clear and defined role, an external focus – peacekeeping – and cut away anything not associated with the role which might provide an excuse for the RFMF to involve itself in domestic politics.
Editor’s Note: In his conclusion, Victor Lal had added the following to the above in his 2006 expose:
Commodore Frank Bainimarama, on the other hand, was still maintaining after the election that no one can remove him because he is not a civil servant but the military commander. And he refused to rule out martial law as commander of the RFMF. Let us hope that we do not provide him the opportunity to indulge in his flight of fantasy.
And if he continues to make unwarranted threats, the duly elected Government of the day must be prepared to charge him with insubordination or simply sack him from his dismissable post for terrorizing the nation in peace time.
The Constitution of the Republic of the Fiji Islands 27th 1998 affirms the continued existence of the RFMF and provides for the military commander to be appointed by the President, on the advice of the Minister for Home Affairs, and for the commander to exercise executive military command subject to the control of the Government Minister.
It also provides for Parliament to make laws relating to the RFMF. These provisions are a firm base for civil control of the military. Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has, for too long, been a law unto himself. He must be held accountable by the legal and constitutional bootstrap. The people of Fiji have spoken at the ballot box, and presumably his taukei Fijian foot soldiers, with them.
The President, as his Commander-in-Chief, must read to him the riot act or alternatively, throw him and those who want to follow him, out of the military barracks. No democracy is safe from a raging and erratic ‘military bull’.
Editor’s Note: The dictator however went ahead to carry out the 2006 coup, and has emerged as the most corrupt leader in the 21st Century. He refused to abide by the RFMF Act and the 1997 Constitution of Fiji, which he later abrogated to rule (with the help of the then ailing president Josefa Iloilo, seen at left and right) Fiji by various illegal decrees.