MILITARY FORCES: NOT ONLY FOR SUBJECTION OR SUBMISSION BUT FOR CO-OPERATION AND RESPECT FOR THE RULE OF LAW AND ORDINANCES OF OUR DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED GOVERNMENT
A reprint of a letter by Rev. J. F. Koroi, the 81 year old former chaplin who told soldiers 'over my dead body' when they tried to take him to QEB during the height of the recent stand-off between the Methodist Church and regime after the church's permit to hold its annual conference was cancelled.
I write with great concern, not only as a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus the Christ, but also as a fellow RFMF “Commissioned” officer to the Rank of Chaplaincy 3rd Class (Major) by His Excellency, the late Ratu Sir George Kadavulevu Cakobau, Governor General and Commander in Chief to the Fiji Infantry Regimental Forces, to remind Commodore F. Bainimarama and all other RFMF officers of the “common oath of allegiance” we all undertook regarding the Ordinance and Authorities of all other Powers which enabling the Commander-in-Chief, who in reposing especial trust and confidence in our loyalty, obedience, courage and good conduct did, thereby present, constitute, nominate and appoint each one of us to be an officer of the RFMF.
Each one of us (officers) are therefore carefully and diligently ordered to discharge our various duties in the rank for which the officer is commissioned.
We are thereby commanded by His Excellency – the Commander-in-Chief to obey our superior officers and to observe and follow orders and directions as from time to time one shall receive from his or her superior officers according to the rules and discipline of war, and of the Military Forces of Fiji in pursuance of the trust thereby reposed upon us.
And being Commissioned for life for example, as a Senior Chaplain in the RFMF, who had 15 yrs service in the Military – both at home and abroad in peace keeping duties; I am morally obligated to plead for obedience and respect to the rule of law, and reconciliation in services between the Military and the Government - regarding the ongoing impasse, which now has brought to a stand still our most valued economic progression of tourism in the country.
As for Commodore Bainimarama with his Commissioned officers with him, being antagonistic to the rule of law and order, and conspiring to march into the office of Prime Minister Qarase and force him to resign, and then take over the reign of his democratically elected government, they are “not only denying” their “oath of allegiance” to the supreme authority of the State and, or “abusing the trust of loyalty to duties” placed upon them, but they are deliberately conspiring to committing an act of “mutiny”, “treason” and a “felony” against the State and its democratically elected Government.
But, at the moment, all are being caught up in political and military dilemma and power rivalry stalemate between them, and not knowing of where or whom to turn for a happy solution to the many serious problems that are threatening to the welfare, wellbeing, prosperity, security and peace in the country.
I therefore would like to focus all attention to some words of divine wisdom from the scriptures, as moral guide to our character for good citizenship of a country. As we are trying to follow these divine directives from the Scriptures, let us bear in mind what the Apostle Paul said in addressing Christian citizens who were under the “Authoritarian” rule of the Roman Empire, and not a “democratically” elected government such as ours. Nevertheless, both types of Government are founded on the same moral and spiritual principle of righteousness, obedience, justice, and truth.
All Christian citizens, as St. Paul said to Titus (3:1-2) are “to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no one, not to be aggressive, to be kindly, to show all gentleness to all people”. And again St. Paul continued to tell the Christians in Rome to ---“Render due obedience to those who occupy positions of outstanding authority, for there is no authority which is not allotted its place by God, for the authorities which exist have been set in their place by God. So, he who sets himself up against authority has really set himself up against God’s arrangement of things ………” said the Apostle Paul (Rom 13:1-7).
The above passages are to counsel “absolute obedience” on the part of the Christian citizen to the civil power.
As a general rule, God “condemns” civil disobedience toward the lawfully – existent government. Those who are contrary and rebel against it, must know that opposition to government is opposition to God. However, the obedience which the citizen owes to the government is never absolute and must be carefully weighed in the light of his subjection to God. To unlawfully and unethically resist government, as the Commander RFMF has been doing, brings the judgement (not condemnation) of God upon the people of the country.
Since God’s purpose in ordaining government of the day is to “restrain” wickedness and “promote” virtue, we are to be in subjection to any government, which fulfils this purpose.
The Ministers of the State are ordained of God to minister that, which is good. Therefore the town Mayor or a Police or an Army Officer, or a Village chief is as much a minister of God as the local pastor of the church, but in a very different way. We ought to have as much respect for good mayor or government minister as we do for a good priest of Hindu temple, Mosque or a Church.
The hands of good government should never be so tied, that they cannot execute good judgement and the wrath of courts of law upon those who do wrong and evil things.
However, at this point, the Apostle Paul, reiterates God’s general rule that we need to be subject to the higher powers, but he introduces also the question of the “conscience” as well. The Christian citizen always lives in a tension between the “two” competing claims of “obedience” to the “State” and “obedience” to “God”.
The State has the right to demand our respect and conformity. Thus, we are to be in subjection to those in authority over us, not only out of fear and respect but also out of “good conscience” before God. However, the “morally conscientious” dare not “blindly” bow to the State if his conscience is offended by the wickedness of the State. There may be times when “we ought to obey God rather than men”. (Acts 5:29; cf 4:9). Since the “State” and its “magistrate” are “not infallible”, the moral objector may at times have to conscientiously object to what the State requires is in direct contradiction to the divine law of God.
To be a good citizen of the State we must as St. Paul said, “render …. To all their dues”, that is to discharge our obligation to all citizens.
If we disobey the State, we are to fear, concern, and reverence those who have been charged with responsibility of punishing disobedience and the rebellious. At the same time we are to respect the laws of the State and those who make the laws. It is dishonourable of anyone to speak in a disrespectful way of the State or officers of the State and as well as our own local leaders.
OBEDIENCE AND RELATIONSHIP TO POWER AND AUTHORITY.
St. Paul’s letter to Titus (3:1-2) says that “He is to remind Christian citizens to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey each several command, to be ready for every good work. To speak evil nor slander of no one, not to be aggressive nor brawlers, but to be kindly, gentle and showing all meekness unto all citizens.”
Truly, here, with this passage, there is laid down the duty of all good citizens; and its advice is particularly relevant to the turmoil situation facing the Fiji Military and the Government authorities. The RFMF Commander, Commodore F. Bainimarama and officers have, for sometime now been notoriously turbulent and quarrelsome and as well as impatient of all government authority, particularly in regards to the proposed R.T.U. and Qoliqoli Bills. This passage lays down six qualifications for the “good reputable and desirable” moral character of a citizen.
(1) The good citizen is “law abiding”. He or she recognises that unless the laws are kept, life becomes chaos. He or she gives proper respect to those who are set in authority, and carries out whatever command is given to him. Christianity does not insist that a man should cease to be an individual, but it does insist that that, he must always remember that he is also a member of a group. As someone, once said: “Man is a political animal”. And what it means is that, a man best expresses his personality not in isolated individualism, but within the framework of the group. A good citizen best finds him/herself in the company and the service of others.
(2) A good citizen is “active in service”. He or she is ready for every work, so long as it is good. The characteristic modern disease is “boredom”; and “boredom” is the direct result of “selfishness”. So long as a person lives by the principle of “self importance” and “self aggrandizement” – whose only desire is to be served rather than giving service for others, is bound to be bored and stressed. Is it not this the kind of “boredom” the RFMF and its Commander suffers?
As it has been for some years now, since the withdrawal of the Military guards personnel from all government services and its Prime Minister; and have shifted all services to themselves by providing heavy security, only for its own Q.E Camp and to the seemingly most insecure person in the country – Commodore F. Bainimarama – to whom the government has entrusted all weaponry ammunition for the purpose of providing national security and stability, but who has failed miserably because he suffers from the dreadful moral disease of “boredom” – as a direct result of “lack of active service” for others, and of selfishness and self aggrandizement.
(3) A good citizen is “careful in speech”. He or she must slander no one. No person should say about other people what he or she would not like other people to say about him or her. The good citizen will be as careful of the words he speaks as of the deeds he or she does. It may be true to think that, there would not be another military “coup” as pronounced by the RFMF spokesperson Major. Leweni; but the “Slandering words” that have been uttered about the Government and its officers by the Commander, Commodore F. Bainimarama has had already its same destructive effect, if not worse, on good relationship that existed – politically, economically, socially and morally both, nationally and internationally between Governments, with all the citizens and allies.
(4) The good citizen is “tolerant”. The word “tolerant” in Greek means – not a fighter”. He or she is “not aggressive”. This does not mean that the good citizen will not stand for the principles which he or she believes to be right, but it does mean that he will never be opinionated that he cannot believe that any other way than his or her own is right. He will allow to others the same right to have their convictions as he or she claims for him/herself to have his own. The call by Commodore F. Bainimarama for the Government to resign if it would not drop the so called “unjust” policies such as the R.A.T.U and the Qoliqoli Bills; - can only be best described as aggressive, unconstitutional, immoral and intolerably unacceptable.
(5) A good citizen is “kind”. The word “kind” describes the person who does not stand upon the letter of the law. It denotes “indulgent consideration of human infirmities”, it also denotes the “ability” to consider not only the letter of the law, but also the “mind” and “intention” of the “legislator”. The person who is kind is ever ready to temper justice with mercy, and to avoid the injustice, which often lies in being “strictly” just. Is it not this, the justice with mercy which the “R.T.U and Qoliqoli Bills” is trying to bring in with the Landowners in order to avoid the “injustice” which lies in being “strictly just” as advocated by the RFMF Commander F. Bainimarama, with his policy of “retaliation” which is “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. This opposes the Christian principle of “forgiveness and reconciliation” which is not the resisting of evil with evil: but, “whoever smacks you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” said Jesus. Jesus is here telling the Christian believers how they should respond to personal injury.
He is not discussing the government’s obligation to maintain law and order. Although, the question of non-retaliation or non-violence is often discussed in relation to these verses, however these passages alone do not mean that a person should not defend his family or his country, but rather that he should not attempt personal vengeance as Commodore Bainimarama is now doing, even through the means of the law, to compensate for a personal injury.
The reason for this “non-retaliation” or “non-violence” of Christian principle is that – all justice ultimately is in the hand and heart of God. As long as human governments prevail, justice will be limited by people’s finite abilities. The practical application of this principle is that the Christian citizen should not attempt to justify him or herself or inflict vengeance, even through legal means. He is to place his total confidence in the ultimate sovereignty of God over the affairs of his life.
This Christian principle “to overcome evil with good” (Rom 12:21) is probably the “most feared statements in all the Bible”. People have gone to great lengths in an attempt to explain it away. But still, it remains the most pungent statement of Christian ethic. The life of a Christian citizen in society is to be lived with such a quality of moral verity and justice that he needs “no physical retaliation” in order to defend or justify his position.
This pungent statement of ethics should speak directly to the minds and hearts of Commodore Bainimarama and his armed soldiers that they “must not” continually bully the innocent general public with “guns”, and stop the takeover threat and their clean up campaign by force of our democratically elected government of Fiji.
(6) The good citizen is “gentle”. The word describes the person whose temper is always under complete control. “Gentle” usually refers to our outward conduct while “meekness” to our inward attitude. It describes the person who knows when to be angry and when not to be angry, the person who patiently bears wrong done to himself, but is ever ready to spring to the help of others who are wronged or injured.
If such a high moral standard of conduct is required for a good “gentle” leadership in good citizenship, who of the two gentlemen Mr. F. Bainimarama or Mr. L. Qarase, in your own personal understanding of their attitude and character is best suited to the moral quality of leadership for the good and “gentle” governance of our country?
What duties are expected of a Christian for good citizenship?
The Apostle Peter looks at the duty of a Christian as a citizen where he happens to live by saying that they are to “submit to every human institution for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the “king”, who has the first place, or to “governors” as sent by Him for the “punishment” of whose deeds are “evil”, and the “praise” of those whose deeds are “good” for it is the will of God that by so doing, you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men”. (1 Peter 2:13-15)
Nothing is further from the thought of all the Apostles and Christ than any kind of anarchy. Jesus had said, “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s (Matt 22:21).
The Apostle Paul was certain that those who governed the nation were sent by God and held their responsibility from God, and that they were no terror or threat to the person who lived an honourable life (Rm. 13:1-7). St. Paul had instructed all Christians to pray for Kings and for all that are in authority (1 Tim.2:2). The instruction of these Apostles is that the “Christian” must be “good” and “useful” and “faithful” citizen of the country in which his or her life is set.
All societies are built by people who join themselves together and agree to live under certain laws, in order that not only the good and the honourable people, but all common citizens as well may have peace, to live their lives, to do their work, and to go about their business, and in order that the evil people should be restrained and controlled and kept from their evil doing. The whole idea of these Apostles (Paul and Peter) is that life is meant by God to be an “ordered business”, and that the “state” is divinely appointed to provide and to maintain that order.
This point of view, expressed by these Apostles, is perfect and “just” and “logical”. Paul and Peter holds that a person cannot accept the privileges, which the State provides him or her without also accepting the responsibilities and the duties which the State demands from him or her. A person cannot in honour and decency, take everything and give nothing.
HOW ARE WE TO TRANSLATE THIS CONCEPT INTO OUR SOCIO – POLITICAL, AND SOCIO – RELIGIOUS SITUATION TODAY?
It is understood that there is a fundamental difference between the State in Paul and Peter’s time and the State we know today. In the Apostle’s times “State” was “authoritarian”. The “ruler” was an “absolute” power and the sole duty of the citizen was to render “absolute” obedience to the State and to pay taxes as the State ordained (Rom. 13:6-6).
Under these conditions the “keynote” was bound to “subjection” to the State. We no longer live in an “authoritarian” State, but we now live in a “democracy”; and, in a democracy something far more than unquestioning “subjection” and “submission” becomes necessary. In a democracy, Government is not only government “of” the people; is also government “for” the people and “by” the people. Now the demands of both Apostles (Paul and Peter) is that the Christian citizen should fulfil their responsibility and obligation to the State.
In the “authoritarian” State, that obligation consisted solely in “submission and subjection”. But what is that obligation in the very different circumstances of a democracy? Or to ask the question in another way if “subjection” is the “keynote” of the obligation of the citizen in the authoritarian State, what is the “keynote” of the obligation of the citizen in the “democratic” State?
While it is true in any State, there must be a certain subjection, there also must be “a voluntary subordination of oneself to others, putting the interest and welfare of others above one’s own, preferring to “give” rather than “to get”, to “serve” rather than to “be served”.
But in a “democratic State”, the keynote must not be “subjection”, but “co-operation”, for in the democratic State the duty of the citizen is not only to submit to be ruled, but to “take the necessary share” in ruling. Therefore, if the citizen is to fulfil his duty to the State, he must take his part in the government of the State; that is, he must take his part in the local government of the city, the town, the district, the province, the village and the community where he stays. He must also take his part in the life and work and administration of the trade union, business Company or association connected with his trade, craft or profession.
“No one” can, entirely disassociate himself from a democratic society in which he lives and has a part”.
No one can, in conscience, opt out of the nation; not even Commodore F. Bainimarama with his tons of bullets dubiously confiscated from the Customs at the Suva wharf. Each of the Military personnel is a part of the body of the state, and enjoys benefits which he could not as an individual.
He cannot reasonably claim all the privileges and then refuse all the duties and responsibilities. He is bound up in the bundle of life as he is part of the body of the military, just as is a policeman, a member of a political party, a town councillor etc. And he is also a part of the State which calls for his loyalty and co-operation.
There is no such thing in this world as an independent isolated individual. A person has a duty to the state, and must discharge that duty even if he be a Dictator such as Emperor Nero of Rome or Commodore Bainimarama, who is threatening to be one.
It is to the democratic State government that a person owes his protection. The State exists for the sake of justice and safety; personal security against violence, savagery and calamity.
A State is essentially a body of people who band themselves, co-operate and covenant together to maintain certain relationships between each other by the observance of certain laws and policies.
Without the State, or without these laws, and without the mutual agreement and co-operation to observe them, the antagonist, the selfish and the out of control militant man, such as Commander Bainimarama, would be supreme. The weak, the innocent, the begging to be different in the general population, would go hiding behind walls. Life would become ruled by the law of the jungle. Every ordinary person owes his security to the State, and is therefore under a duty and responsibility to it.
Ordinary people benefit from a wide range of state provided services which individually they could not attain to.
It would be impossible for every person (especially the state paid Fiji Military Forces) to have his own water, lighting, sewage and transportation system, etc.
It would be impossible for a person by himself to enjoy a system of municipal services, communication, social security, health and education, etc.
These things are only obtainable when people agree and co-operate to live together. It would be quite wrong for a person to enjoy every thing wherewith the State provides him and refuse all responsibility to that State.
No person in all fairness takes everything and gives nothing. That in fact, is one compelling reason why the individual person is bound in honour to be a good citizen, and to take his part in all the duties of citizenship.
It was St. Paul’s main views that “Governments are Divinely Ordained To Save The World From Chaos”. The Apostle Paul, as he saw things of his day, believed that the Roman Empire was the divinely ordained instruments to save the world from chaos. Take away that Empire, as St. Paul saw it, and the world would disintegrate into flying fragments.
It was in fact, the Roman State, which gave the individual citizen the chance to do his work (Christian missionaries included).
Ideally people should be bound and co-operate together by the love of one’s own country; but they are not; and the only ultimate bond which keeps them together is the rule of law of the State.
The Apostle Paul saw in the State an instrument in the hand of God; the state preserved the world from chaos; those who minister the State are playing their part in that great task. Whether they know it or not they are doing God’s work, and it is the duty of every citizen not to hinder, but rather to co-operate and positively assist.
And lastly, but not least, Paul said that all citizens have a higher obligation than even his obligation to the State. While he must render to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, he must also render to God the things that are God’s.
These are perilous times for our small nation and I call upon all to ponder earnestly and consider the path of lawful righteousness, truth, integrity and peace!!
Rev. Josateki F. Koroi