By Jone Baledrokadroka former land commander now studying at ANU
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement in Melbourne yesterday that Washington is working with Canberra to press Fiji's military rulers to restore democracy, flies in the face of those wanting rapprochement with the Fiji military regime.
This volley-across-the-bow of illegality has come at a time when there has been much propaganda to grant regional and international acceptance of Bainimarama’s illegal rule.
Clinton further dampened coup apologists ‘Look North’ policy by revealing that the US is also working with Asian nations to persuade Suva to reintroduce democratic government.
In the past months as the Fijian economy plummeted, the regime spin doctors have even tried to somehow infer by association that there has been a sea change in US` policy towards their illegal regime.
Clinton’s emphatic retort,"We are going to be working together with Australia to persuade the military government in Suva to meet its commitment to bring democracy back to Fiji," and that “that process would need to involve giving Fijians greater political freedoms” will no doubt rankle with the regime and its elections 2014 mantra.
More so, Clinton’s wish to cut through the illegalities: "In the short term we would like to see steps that advance political freedom such as allowing professional civilians to return to return to key government ministries" strikes hard at the militarization of an ever unaccountable government without fiscal transparency.
Bainimarama’s regime is desperately gasping for the oxygen of international legitimacy and should understand that the renewal of friendly relations between close neigbours by playing the China card, or creating cheap tantrums, will not turn a trick.
In the short term, Clinton’s policy statement on Fiji will create great unease in Suva. Fiji has 339 soldiers serving in the Multinational Forces and Observers in Sinai Egypt so is at the mercy of the US granting further mandates.
Just as disconcerting for the regime is the US withdrawal from Iraq where Fiji has a compliment of 245 soldiers with UNAMI. Like the Congo, Iraq will want to rid itself as soon as possible of the bane of international peacekeepers as peace is restored. The United Nations no new future peacekeeping deployment policy for Fiji is still extant and will sting Bainimarama’s loyal constituency, the handsomely paid military.
As the most powerful of the five permanent members of the Security Council, the US has had a huge cudgel to wield in global peacekeeping operations. Again, Fiji is at her mercy should Washington play hardball.
The withdrawing of all international civilian security contractors from Afghanistan as of January next year has added remittances implications for Bainimarama’s flailing government.
Indeed, ex-Fijian soldiers serving in droves in that troubled nation will not take kindly to a return as low paying security guards in Fiji's crime ridden poverty stricken urban cities.
Fiji has built a reputation of being the good international citizen with her Peacekeeping troops. The four years of lies perpetrated on its own people by the regime has seriously eroded Fiji’s reserve of international political capital.
The US, Australia, and New Zealand have had a strong hand in the building of Fiji’s international acceptance as peacekeepers, including excellent training and logistics support.
What our tinpot dictator must understand is that the US, with its global democratic allies and institutions, always had more and better cards to play so can deal to his petty bluffs.
Clinton’s reiterated US policy in concert with Australia on Fiji is crystal clear. The South Pacific will remain a western lake as it has always been post World War Two.
Ironically, the regime’s latest gambling casinos stop gap intention may well have tipped US interests to paying attention to a growing human security nest of issues in Fiji and the region.