#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: Are New Zealand and Australia serious about democracy in Fiji?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Are New Zealand and Australia serious about democracy in Fiji?

RALLYING FOR VITI: Australian pro-democracy supporters. photo: Matavuvale

Where is Fiji's Regional Support?
By Sanjay Ramesh

In February a new commanding officer of the Fiji Third Infantry Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Jone Kalouniwai, was appointed by the military. 

The appointment came following speculation that former commanding officer Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara was under investigation, together with another senior military officer, Land Forces Commander Brigadier General Pita Driti, for plotting the removal of Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama in 2010. 
The news that senior members of the Fiji military who had earlier supported the coup had a fallout with Bainimarama brought back memories of the mutiny in November 2000. In 2000, the rebel soldiers with the support of the Naitasiri high chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, wanted to replace Bainimarama with either Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini or Rusiate Koroivusere—the two names put forward by Captain Shane Stevens to replace Commodore Bainimarama if they successfully took over Queen Elizabeth Barracks in 2000. 

During the trial of Takiveikata, state witness Maciu Turagacati stated that in August 2000 "at Ratu Inoke Takiveikata's office at the Naitasiri Provincial Council, Captain Stevens, the rebel leader, informed the meeting that they would take over the military camp but needed some assistance like arms and handcuffs to be provided by the Qaranivalu and his group."

Unlike the events of November 2000, members of the Fiji Military Forces notified Bainimarama that senior members of the military were conspiring to oust him from power, and as a result both officers were sent on an indefinite leave. 

Following an investigation on May 4, Driti was charged with two counts of uttering seditious comments and one count of inciting mutiny. Mara faced one count of uttering seditious comments under Section 67 of the Fiji Crimes Decree. Both former senior military officers were released on $F2,000 ($1,135) bail. Mara was ordered to surrender his passport to the police on May 5, report on his whereabouts by May 15 and attend the court hearing on May 30 and June 1.

On May 9, Mara was extracted by the Tongan Royal Navy Patrol Boat, Savea, from within Fiji's territorial waters after he was taken to the extraction point by Risto Harmat, an Estonian national who was charged and later bailed over his part in assisting Mara. 

On May 23, New Zealand Herald reported that two New Zealand nationals and Mara's friends, Anthony Fullman and Tim McBride, were questioned by Fiji Police, and a TV New Zealand crew was also questioned after attempting to interview Mara's wife in Suva.

The regional leaders remained tight-lipped but were privately supporting what had transpired in Fiji. Australian Parliamentary Secretary Richard Marles opined that tensions between Fiji and Tonga were a "bilateral issue," and the New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully advised U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the "situation in Fiji was becoming more challenging for the Fiji's military leader."

In Tonga, the Forum Trade Ministers had gathered for a meeting on Forum trade, but high on the agenda for discussion was not trade but how Australia, New Zealand, Samoa and Tonga could leverage Mara's defection. Tonga's Chief Secretary Busby Kautoke told PACNEWS that Mara was a "man rescued at sea." 

However, under the Tongan Extradition Act 1988, Fiji is one of the designated countries to which an individual can be extradited back, but Tonga had no such intention and instead issued a Tongan passport to Mara as both Australia and New Zealand debated relaxing their travel ban on Mara.

A Kiwi writer summed up his frustration with his government's approach in a letter: "How cynical is our government? While our government has expelled law-abiding Martin Payne, who brought his life savings here from Britain and set up a successful family business in Northland, Prime Minister Key is now offering or considering offering political asylum to a Fijian bail absconder.

"The Fijian, Ratu Tevita Mara, has connections to the Tongan royal family, and is under the protection of the king of Tonga. He does not need asylum; he has it already. The Key Government is heartless towards a law-abiding person, but bending over backwards for a bail-jumper because Mara can help 'rub Fiji's nose in it.' How cynical is that?"

On June 10, Mara was successful in securing a visa to Australia, despite being on a travel blacklist by Canberra and much to the surprise of many indigenous Fijians who were refused political asylum, and also despite a sanctions regime in place on Fiji since December 2006.

Are Australia or New Zealand serious about democracy in Fiji? Tonga can be excused because it is hardly a model for democratic change in the region, and Samoa has been engaged in hurling abuse at Baininarama since the December 2006 coup. 

Is the strategy for democratic change in Fiji focused too much on one person (Bainimarama) rather than working collaboratively towards a constitutional, institutional and electoral system that will enable greater cross-cultural discourse and political inclusion in Fiji?

Mara has claimed on YouTube and on TV New Zealand that Bainimarama is a "puppet" of Attorney General Saiyed Khaiyum. A similar call was made by the Taukei Movement in April 1987, which accused late Dr. Timoci Bavadra of being a puppet of Jai Ram Reddy. Bainimarama and Professor Crosbie Walsh have highlighted that the comments of Mara against Khaiyum were racist and possibly aimed at consolidating the support of the indigenous nationalists overseas.

The defection of Mara has underscored the lack of direction in the region in dealing with Fiji. Exceptions are made to policy positions based on political expediency rather than a determination to improve the social and economic conditions of the people of Fiji.

Dr. Sanjay Ramesh is an associate fellow at the Centre for Peace and Conflict at University of Sydney. http://www.worldpress.org/Asia/3762.cfm 

Editor's Note: The second Roko Ului Mara meeting in Australia will be held next Saturday (June 25), in Melbourne, 7pm at the St Marks Uniting Church Hall, 7 Edward Street, Chadstone. The other speaker at the meeting will be Jone Baledrokadroka.


Anonymous said...

thumbs up democracy of fiji.

Anonymous said...

people of fiji..please take bai and AG out....kill them or something

Anonymous said...

what exactly is the purpose of this article, Sanjay? It's nothing but a summary of what we already know. What a waste of space!

malua said...

Ramesh and all those who call for closer cooperation and dialogue, mediation and consultation with the illegal regime, in essense mean collobaration and acquiesence and legitimisation of a dictatorship.
It is interesting that liberal theorist, Locke, whose theory that the legitimacy of government is derived from the consent of the people, and whoes philosphy along with Rousseau provided the foundation for the US constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Fijians should also do well to take Locke's advise that if the state acts against the people, we as citizens have a right and a moral responsibilty to remove them by force if necessary. In fact his original words were : - to kill them. So any government that doesn not have the consent of the people or ursups the govt by the people neeed to be destroyed.
Fijians are therefore well within the premise of moral and international laws to destory and kill bainimarma's regime.
This is why countries like the US and UK, has never had coups or illegal removal of their governments, because of their consitution provides the basis of popular uprisings.

Anonymous said...

Can take the Fijians out of Fiji but cannot take Fiji out of the Fijians!!!!!!!!! Thumbs Up Democracy!

Anonymous said...

Nz and aussie in a big jam. If tbey don't arrest RUM they become a paraih state. Hyprocritical too if they don't act on extradition request. Bar our personal beliefs on isues, international treaties must be honoured.

angie said...

Thomas Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Martin Lurther King all stated that it is the right and duty of citizens to overthrow a government that acts unjustly and rules without the consent of the people. Dictatorship and Tyranical government cannot and must not be tolarated. The basis of this duty and right to act is grounded in natural law, which is also derived from God's law.

Fiji citizens should do well to take such sensible advise .

Great historical examples are the Glorious Revolution, Fench Revolution and the American Revolution. Closer to our time, the recent events in the middle east.

Jury still out on Mara said...

No doubt about the political expediency. Mara has been forgiven and welcomed because NZ and Australia think he can shove it to Frank. Will the people of Fiji and true democracy remembered in all of this?

Jury still out on Mara said...

PS Wake up people of Fiji - we are leaving it again to everyone else but ourselves to do something. If we are sold out for political expediency we get what we deserve.

Anonymous said...

Is this guy for real? Doesn't he know what a dictatoship is? So if Libya now asks for the extradition of their UN spokesman do you think it will be granted? Of course not!! because they realise that their is no justice system in these countries where the accused will get a fair trial....more likely abuse and torture!! Wake up man!!

Anonymous said...

Dr sanjay Ramesh....can you divert your focus on the illegal dealings...or can you ask the illegal government to show us their pay slips......because everything hidden will one day be exposed.
You are taking us back and rightly said......Can take the Fijians out of Fiji but cannot take Fiji out of the Fijians!!!!!!!!!
We dont want dictatorship but democatic leadership.
Thumbs up for democracyy!!!!
God Bless Fiji

Anonymous said...

@Annon -11.22am- Are you nuts, Australia and NZ are governed by legitimate government, how can they accept en extradition paper from an illigimate government- simple common sense come on do not make yourself, self- righteous, to force illegality to a legal government like Aussie and NZ. Go to school please.

Anonymous said...

12:38pm. Suggest u read the treaty before telling me to go to school. Unfortunately Fiji has half educated iditiots like.

SEMI MEO said...

Dr. Sanjay Ramesh...cava sa bosa??..so what is your faculty’s recipe for peace and less conflict in Fiji??...let us know in your next article..

Thumbs Up Fiji! said...

Waste of space indeed.

Perhaps Kiwi writer moaning and groaning about a Payne-whatever-his-issues-is-really about-in-NZ's-democratic-transparent-system-we-still-have-not-been-told-hence- cannot-make-proper-comparison, may like to move to Fiji which has has a much better system of governance than Britain - dictatorship over a constitutional monarchy??

S/he sounds more like an unschooled, pain in the butt, whining idiot. Vinaka.

Anonymous said...

Good article. Food for thought on NZ double standards.

People are only barking coup is bad now. Where were they in 87 or 2000?

We need to solve this problem once and for all but first we must have a unity amongst fijians.

What have the chiefs done for us. Poor fijians have been giving their saqa moli to their chiefs.

Our solution has to be home grown. Samoa can not help us. Their PM has been one-side and he himself has dirty linen.

Anonymous said...

Thumbs up for democracy in Tonga and Samoa !!!

Anonymous said...

My friend where is democracy in Tonga!

Anonymous said...

what's the punch line in your article Sanjay, I failed to get anything, for your info like many indians I also see baini and aryse as monsters-

Thumbs Up Fiji! said...

Anonymous 3.09

Who are you? Leweni or one of 'em matavailavoni kalavos defending the indefensible? Some yavu ni "cowards" you are hiding behind bainiarsi's skirt and guns. Nuf said. lols....

Anonymous said...

@12.23 pm 'Jury Still out on Mara' totally agree!! Everyone take responsibility cant rely on others.

Kinoya Kid said...

kinoya kid says,
waste time comments from Ramesh...wat's he getting at....those are of the past...waste time....comment on something constructive.....God Bless

Anonymous said...

Dr Sanjay Ramesh sounded like he has no idea about the Peace and Conflict situation in Fiji and the S/Pacific Region...What do you think is the solution Dr Ramesh?

Tonga doesn't recognise the illegal regime that's the reason they didn't extradite Ratu Mara back to Fiji...There is No constitution in Fiji,you should have known better!!


I'm just wondering what Fiji is gonna be like in the next one or two decades. I feel it's gonna be different then. Fijian landowners will surely lose their landrights to cater for the Government's debts and then the land will be plotted and valued by the government. We cannot just sit back and think that we are different from the rest of the world. I taukei you better start thinking and go back to your land and start building your businesses from your natural resources. What's happening in Fiji is just a shakeup of things for a new direction. It is history repeating itself. When the new law starts about land rights, where will your decendants be? Suva or will they be millionaires in your land. Wake up Fiji.This is the government we have been praying for so we have to deal with it and hope it comes out best.Ena yaco mai na ka qo believe me. Eda na tu ga sa votai na noda i yau bula. Why ? because Fiji will never pay it's debts and will be a debtor to the world bank. The developments here in Fiji is the sign of of the world trend. To work things best for your decendants in the future is the WORK YOUR LAND drive because time is ticking and we cannot turn back time. GOD BLESS MY BEAUTIFUL FIJI.

Anonymous said...

this academic has no idea about whatis happening fiji. he must be in some other planet.

Naqali said...

@Lomaivuna Power. You talk about the importance of using your land .

If you are from Lomaivuna, why is most of the land within and surrounding Lomaivuna still in bush after $$millions have been spent in the area?

The original settlers on Agr Development Scheeme ended up sword carvers and many social beneficiaries live in Lomaivuna??

If we are to prosper, educate our children and avoid the coup culture successfully, you should adopt and encourage what you preach above, hope you have already.

Anonymous said...

This is too the fool that wrote from 11.22am One you are so stupid in what you say .No substance at all,See,How can a illegal Government ask any thing ,Are we all stupid like you .I dont think so .Extradition from who for what .
Dictatorship only applies to people with guns ,Dont you get it . So go back to you little room and think what next .Idiots!! You all will be in court very soon if you stay alive . So stop wasting all the paper to make out that you are a legal Government .Your not . Dont you get it . You are not ,

Little Pinkie said...

Anyone with sense knows that calling Bainimarama as a puppet is not racist but fact. Khaiyum has been runnings the show cos FB doesn't have the academic smarts or the brains to do it. Suck it up regime fans.

Anonymous said...

Typical of supporters of 2006 coup - always harking back to selected incidences of 1987 and 2000 to validate what is happening now. You were suppossed to learn that coups are not the way to go, IDIOTS!

Dr. Sanjay Ramesh said...

Is Democracy A Frankenstein for Fiji

Will 1997 Constitution bring back democracy? It was rejected by the SVT after the May 1999 election and a majority of the Fijian provinces in 1998. In 2000, the constitution was brutally torn up by the Speight group and the military and the preponderance of communal seats in the document in defiance of the 1996 Reeves Report could never instill multiethnic democracy. See the ethnically divisive results of the 2001 and 2006 elections.

The other issue is that of the GCC. The GCC were divided following the 2000 coup and many members were cursing the Indo-Fijians and their leaders in Fijians for being responsible for the Speight coup and some advocated requesting UK, Australian and NZ to resettle the community.

In Australia, the ABC should be asking the Parliamentary Secretary of the Pacific Island Affairs Richard Marles and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd about what policy changes since the granting of travel visa to Ratu Tevita?

Are Australia and New Zealand advocating mutiny and defections in Fiji and will this promote democracy which remained a "foreign flower" until the chiefly oligarchy was dislodged from power by FB in 2006.

The other question should be directed at the Immigration Minister Chris Bowen. Why Ratu Tevita was given a visa so quickly? and why was he removed from the travel blacklist? considering that temporary protection visas for many indigenous Fijians who have jumped their visitors visa in Australia were declined.

All the interviews have focused either on what Ratu Tevita has to stay and what pro-democracy movement (now in Canberra to link up with the anti-Bainimarama academia at ANU) has come up with.

These are important questions and we must separate the myth from the facts.

Lets see some real debate and real solutions instead of advocating mutiny and extra-judicial killings and other reactionary solutions which will only deepen the political problems of Fiji.

Dr. Sanjay Ramesh

Anonymous said...

dr ramesh has posed some serious questions - how will self serving opportunists react....

Radiolucas said...

@ Anon 1:14om

An extradition treaty would be working in full force if:

(a) Fiji had a sensible relationship with its neighbours (remember Frank's last set of temper tantrums where he threw out their representatives?);

(b) Fiji had a legitimately elected government; and

(c) Fiji had a working, independent judiciary.

Go back to school. Your job up at the QEB won't be worth much if this is the level of thinking you are up to.

Anonymous said...

For all those who say that PM is a puppet to ASK, are you also saying that so were RUM and Driti for 5 years.

Why, why did they not speak up earlier?

Both gave numerous interviews, why did they not even give a hint.

What is the job of AG? Ask Q Bale? Same as ASK.

Pls don't make this a racist issue. Where were u in 87 or 2000.

Tricky Wiki said...

Dr Sanjay Ramesh@9.27 I suspect Canberra and Wellington moved so quickly on Mara because Kiwi and Australian 'diplomatic boffins' in Suva have been watching the drama at the barracks unfold for some time, via C4.5. I do believe they had known for some time they would support the 'Young Lau Chief' presumably because he has the political and military pedigree to cough up incriminating evidence. He must have been convincing or Wellington and Canberra ultra keen for his visas to have been facilitated as fast as they have been. Bring on Wikileaks 2011!

Anonymous said...

The reason why Ratu U Mara was given a Tongan passport, visa so quikly was the Aussie, NZ and Pacific Island Forum ran out of thoughts on how to counter all the moves that Bainimarama had made against the two "western powers" in the Pacific.Roko Ului was like abig catch for them[what they didn't realise on bargan on was that Roko Ului was trying to save his skin in the first place. He is now hot property for photo shots with Pita Waqatairewa and the Democracy movement-has Roko Ului told us something we don't know! Can he enlighten us on how he basically diverted money owning to the Vanua to go to the Yatu Lau? So far we seem to all think that Roko Ului is answers to our prayers-is he? Roko Ului is well known for doing things with the use of threats even in the army! That was even before he became the head of the 3FIR! Now tell me something i don't know Roko Ului-as one that was enjoying the life of the elite you now crying for justice! Really! Some of us can be blinded not once but twice and even three times even than we might not see the light!Roko Ului can't do a thing about Frank Bainimarama, even if he tried his darndest to get Bainimarama he will in the process have to shot his own feet! So far he has not admitted anything to what he has done only Bainimarama-tell us what you Pita Driti have done up in the camp-ot why the Lau Hit squad was doing!Can someone ask the tough , hard questions of Roko Ului and even photos and hand kissing.!

Anonymous said...

People have been murdered since 2006 and murderers who are soldiers released by frank....
do you condone murder?
Of course NZ n Aust wont deal with murderers.
Chk yo facts too - there are no more temp protection visa!


@ Naqali,first I would like to congratulate you for your reply on my point.Quite right you brought up a legitimate issue.It seems to me that all those government schemes that was implemented for the agriculture and development of Lomaivuna in those days didn't go too well due to the never ending global crisis that occured during that decade.May I refresh your memory that USA and the United Kingdom were trying to solve their own problems during 80s where the Iron Lady Mrs Margret Thatcher shut down most factories which resulted in the English pound being devalued,Russia was on the brink of a revolution and Germany had to open its borders again.Now these sort of events do have a rippling effect on the world economy and can devastate the economy of developing countries like Fiji.It wasn't a surprise that the scheme didn't do well than.I am sure due to increasing overseas markets then maybe it would fathom better.Now that there are more locals venturing in the agricultural business and more adverts being televised plus a vigorous effort from the government to directly inform the rural sector on their part to the economy in building a better Fiji would be a succesful story. Mr Naqali, there was no wonder that scheme didn't do well due to that time and age.I hail from Naqali,in the tikina of Lomaivuna,Naitasiri which shouldn't surprise you and yes I have already got plans to be implemented.It is just a matter of time and very careful planning.
God bless Fiji.

Tui Viti said...

@ Anon 10:25..where were you for the last 5 years when Driti & RUM were getting blasted on this blog? As Q.Bale & ASK,Q.Bale was appointed by an ELECTED government, can't say the same for ASK. Q.Bale was paid by the govt through the Min of Finance and not through some aunt of his.Neither did Q.Bale appoint his brother to be CEO of a govt statutory/ FBCL.....The list goes on & on.......

Anonymous said...

Hi Everyone! Im not going to comment on the above issue.I,ve queries of my own which need clarifications since the coup in 2006.1.Clean-up...from what? 2.If from corruption...y is noone being jailed for it? 3.If it is from racism,nepotism,favoratism or whatever...y following the same trend?...putting family members & army officers in every government positions eventhough they are not qualified to satisfy that particular position's requirement. 4.Y gagging the Media & the Pulic for goodness sake?...they are CLEANING-UP,right,so they must be doing the RIGHT thing,so,at the end of the day they will have the last laugh,no matter what the media or the public is saying right now.5.Y,after 5years,do they still have PER in place? 6. Lastly,to name afew,y the torturing? For God,s adundant grace,....are they(army) still human? Can someone enlighten me...P..L..E..A..S..E?!!

Radiolucas said...

@ Anon 11:37am

"Clean-up...from what?... Can someone enlighten me"

Frank's "clean-up campaign" was basically a bold lie from the very start.

The entire point of his coup was that he was at the proverbial end of the line - about to be charged with murder for the CRW killings - and needed a way out. He found it in organising an overthrow of the SDL government, and was initially supported by a section of the community that felt hard-done by in the last elections.

The coup supporters, such as Chaudry and Ratu Mara, learnt in time that the pretty promises and grand words that Frank and Aiyaz used to get into power were simply lies.

There is a long succession of people who have joined the regime and left just as quickly - realising that the regime has no intention of honoring its aims and promises - that all it intends to do is to hold on to power at all costs.

The PER basically removes all public opposition to the decisions that the regime makes - allowing them to make decisions for the nation that will affect us for generations to come - everything from foreign policy to financial defecit.

Our economy is steadily being driven into the ground while the military grants itself enormous paychecks - as you will appreciate, Frank's loyal officers will only stay around while the paychecks outweigh the moral and ethical dilemmas of serving his regime.

All sad - everything you point out is true - there was never anything "clean" about Frank's campaign at all - and I am afraid that it will get worse before he is finally ousted.

Clean up Kid said...

Radiolucas for the new caretaker government, please.

Dr. Sanjay Ramesh said...

Stand corrected

As a blogger pointed out, the Temporary Protection Visas ended in 2008 but that does not mean that the Government of Australia cannot review its policies and provide individuals with temporary protection visas until the political situation improves in Fiji.

What is the strategy for democracy in Fiji? More anti-Bainimarama rhetoric, demonstrations and calls for invasion.

These have not worked and will not work because if there were divisions and problems within the army as claimed, the current regime would have fallen by now.

At least there is hope that there may be an election in 2014.

Anonymous said...

I guess NZ and Australia are sovereign states.

The Qaranivalu, Speight and Stevens are now all in prison. Ominous for those 2006 coup plotters and supporters (Shameems, Khaiyums, Yabaki, Labour Party).

Anonymous said...

The anti-Bainimarama rhetoric must continue because it takes longer to untangle deception. By its very nature - the 2006 coup was based on big time deception, camouflaged within grand and socially 'acceptable' objectives. But cyanide covered in chocolate is still cyanide.

Anonymous said...

Dr Sanjay your comments are shallow and shows how naive you are with the real situation.

Although you hold yourself out as an academic you obviously do not understand Fijians or Fijian soldiers.

These soldiers have received as much as 300% salary increases and frequent special payments that their loyalty is to the dollar rather than to the people of Fiji.

For as long as your hero Voreqe is controlling the national treasury he will be able to continue paying off the soldiers.

I suggest to do justice to your academic qualifications try and present something that has depth and analysis rather than simplistic rubbish.

The future generations of Fijian taxpayers (excluding you living comfortably in Sydney) will pay in the end.

Dr. Sanjay Ramesh said...

Further questions

If the people blogging on this board believe that Bainimarama will simply pack up and leave because a group in Canberra has a ten point plan then they will be pleasantly surprised.

The call for the reinstatement of the 1997 Constitution following the removal of the communal seat is simplistic and reflects pedestrian academia. The problems of the 1997 Constitution is deeper than communal seats. Remember the multiparty governance requirement.

The multiparty government never worked and there has to be enabling structures that allow multiparty government to work. Then there is the issue of an effective electoral system- the Alternative Vote is a majoritarian system and majority of Fijian voters vote above the line and for their respective communal parties.

There is a misalignment between the Constitution, the parliamentary system and the electoral system and this cannot be resolved by simply removing communal seats.

The other problem with the pro-democracy plan is the GCC. The chiefs in the past have been locked in their various communal and provincial straightjackets and have been quick to blame the Indo-Fijians for the failings of the Fijian elite. In both 1987 and 2000, the GCC blamed the Indo-Fijians for the political crisis in FIji. Similar comments were made following the 2006 coup. It was first a FLP coup and then a Muslim coup and so on. The GCC has to be reformed, democratised and held accountable for their decisions. The 10 point plan has got no such accountability for the GCC.

The next issue with the 10 point plan is the wish for the military to go back to the barracks. History has shown that military in Fiji is not going to go back until there are "iron clad guarantees" in the constitution. How this will be achieved is anybody's best guess.

To make it all work, I think Fiji needs a Gandhi or someone who clearly stand above one's self interest. Unfortunately, the pro-democracy movement or the two ex-soldiers barely fit into this classification.

So back to more drivel about democracy and the rule of law....