Michael Field is a journalist who likes to watch and report sensationally on situations and not solve them. But he is right in saying this: if the pro-democracy movement is successful, then we will have a change of Government in Fiji. If he wants to call that a coup, then so be it. My aim is to achieve regime change without violence. We will make it happen by isolating the regime Internationally, Regionally and within Fiji Itself. We have already made great strides and as the people of Fiji know, I am already talking to regional leaders. When I go to New Zealand I will be meeting with government officials. I am also currently talking to a number of Ambassadors and High Commissioners here in Canberra. Everywhere I have gone, I have been given a warm and understanding reception.
As I said at the Pro Democracy Forum, we must achieve this change without violence. I know we can put pressure on the regime by mass peaceful demonstrations and civil disobedience. The steps I am taking now are about giving confidence and hope to the people of Fiji so that when someone makes a stand against the regime, the people will stand alongside them. I have said many times and I will repeat. I will not take part in the Government that follows the fall of the Bainimarama regime. Before I can move forwards, I need to stand before the people of Fiji and answer for my part in 2006. If Michael Field thinks I am just another colonel trying to grab power, nothing I say now will change his opinion. But, Michael, when this is over and I am not part of the government and I have answered to the people of Fiji, I will expect an apology.
Thumbs up for Democracy
Ratu Tevita Mara
Michael Field‘s opinion piece ‘Just another coup being plotted in Fiji … again’ is full of unfounded statements of my real intentions as an advocate for the return of democracy in Fiji. It has to be challenged and I question how he arrived at such an inaccurate conclusion. I speak for myself and shall leave Lt Colonel Tevita Mara to defend himself, which he has done amicably in the past month, despite his sceptics.
I have been speaking out against Fiji’s tyrannical rulers ever since arriving in Australia on invitation as a fellow at ANU’s Society State Governance Melanesia on Saturday 11th April 2009 - the day after the abrogation of Fiji’s Constitution by the Bainimarama military regime. Three days after arriving in free and democratic Australia, I was given the opportunity to write an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Brisbane Times titled ‘Those with loud voices must speak up to restore democracy in Fiji' (14th of April 2009). This, I am still doing in free and democratic Australia.
As the chief organizer of the Fiji Democracy Freedom Movement (FDFM) forum in Canberra, I had invited Mara as a key note speaker. The decision to grant Mara a visa is the Australian government’s call. The FDMF had only exercised its right as a lobby group in free and democratic Australia and due process was followed. I have also published opinion editorials in the Fiji Times and Fiji’s Daily Post against the regime in 2008 and 2009, prior to the clamping down on the freedom of the press through the draconian Media Decree. I am carrying on this advocacy through the blogs under my by-line unlike many writers who remain anonymous due to their fear of persecution.
Mr Fields as a 'Pacific and Fiji Specialist' seems to have his own interpretation of politics. That I respect, but to call the FDFM initiatives an 'embryonic military coup' is mischievous to say the least. How can any initiative to restore democracy in Fiji be attempted when the Public Emergency Regulations enforced by the regime has curtailed public gatherings and dissenting opinions? The FDFM in its Strategic Development Plan 2011-2014, which was drafted in our Bankstown meeting last year and also adopted in the Queanbeyan forum last week, had articulated that the movement launch such international initiatives in a 'bottom up approach'.
Furthermore, I am not an ‘out -of- work Colonel’ as offhandedly categorized by Mr Field. I am in my third year of a full time PhD scholarship research at Australia’s top ranked and the world’s 16th ranked university, the Australian National University. I also have a busy schedule of lectures on military intervention in Fiji for undergraduates and lecture at the Australian Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies for which I am paid for. I am fully abreast of the literature on military intervention in politics and the damage it has done to coup-prone countries. To insinuate that I have sinister intentions of carrying out a remote controlled coup from Canberra is stretching the imagination. My career as a senior officer in the Fiji military came to an end on 13 January 2006, some eleven months before Bainimarama’s coup because of my professional stand that the military should be apolitical. I was also imprisoned and granted a nolle prosequi by Justice Bruce in 2008 and therefore was fully exonerated and am still seeking damages through my legal counselors.
I have helped Mr Michael Fields in his queries of certain events within the Fiji Military during my tenure as Land Forces Commander and Chief of Staff and am shocked at his ‘gutter journalism’ insinuating Mara and I are in a plot to further destabilize our beloved country which I spent 25 years serving also as a peacekeeper. I have no intentions of carrying out a military coup and abhor any suggestions by Mr Field that I am implicitly planning one. I was a serving officer in Lebanon during Rabuka's coup of 1987 and in Sinai during George Speight and Binimarama's Coup of 2000. I left the military in January 2006 because I did not want to be party to a planned coup in 2006. This coup happened in December 2006 when I was earning an honest day's living planting pawpaws in Sigatoka and running a landscaping business.
I do not want to engage in a running media battle with Mr Fields as I would rather channel my literary and intellectual skills in the restoration of democracy, which I have done through articulating a Ten Point Plan. In this plan I have ensured that some of the major stake holders in Fiji politics today such as the SDL party, FLP, the Methodist Church, the GCC and even the Australian Congress of Trade Unions have commented on and backed. Roko Ului Mara has also backed the Ten Point Plan and together we have been soliciting support from Prime Ministers on down, to any one willing to listen and who has the future of Fiji at heart. Those with loud voices must speak up to restore democracy in Fiji!