|FIRST CASUALTY: Dr Timoci Bavadra.|
By Dr Wadan Narsey
5 November 2011
There is a popular saying: truth liberates.
Yet thousands of people, privy to vital information about one or other of Fiji’s coups, refuse to liberate us with the truth, even after they “see the light”. This “self-censorship” is far more invidious than the draconian media censorship practiced by the Military Regime.
None of Fiji’s leaders of major political parties, the army, religious and non-government organizations, have ever revealed the truth about their roles in any of the coups or attempted coups of 1987 (two), 2000 (how many?), 2006 (one) or 2009 (one).
Thousands of senior civilians in the corporate sector, the professions (especially the lawyers and senior accountants) and NGOs have known who exactly were behind one or the other of the coups, but no one has publicly revealed what they know.
Despite numerous public calls over the last twenty years for a Commission of Truth (and Reconciliation), no government, legal or illegal, has even talked of establishing one while all claim transparency and accountability.
For a small country where the “coconut wireless” is supposed to reveal everything, it is astonishing that every single coup has been accompanied by what can only be described as massive “conspiracies of silence”.
These conspiracies of silence encourage many “good” citizens, former citizens, and even non-citizens to continue to support the illegal Regime of Frank Bainimarama.
They allow Military Regime collaborators like Winston Thompson (the Regime’s Ambassador to Washington), Peter Thompson (Regime’s Representative to UN) and other Bainimarama supporters (like Croz Walsh, Thakur Ranjit Singh, and Graham Davis) to spread the Regime’s propaganda to the world about his alleged desire for racial equality and electoral reform.
They encourage opponents of the Military Regimes into tunnel vision attacks targeting prominent Regime drivers (like Bainimarama and Khaiyum) while ignoring the supporters in the shadows, without whom none of these coups would have succeeded to the extent they have.
Most important for us today, these conspiracies of silence prevent current pro-democracy movements from getting the support they deserve- because of distrust by the general public (Fijians, Indo-Fijians and others).
These cancerous conspiracies of silence prevent genuine reconciliation based on truth and repentance, which is the only solid foundation on which pro-democracy people can build a better Fiji.
Undermining pro-democracy movements
The pro-democracy organizations must ask themselves: why do their meetings draw very few people, despite the obvious illegality of the Bainimarama Regime in Fiji and the great damage they are doing to Fiji?
It is not that our people in Fiji and abroad, don’t care. But many probably ask the same questions I do.
Do the organisations which these movements want to link to (like SDL, FLP, the Methodist Church and some trade unionists) genuinely believe in democracy and law and order, when all evidence suggests they have actively supported one coup or another and none have publicly acknowledged their past errors?
Pro-democracy movements must not only criticize the Bainimarama coups of 2006 and 2009, but also establish the truth of the 1987 and 2000 coups, whose evils live on today in the Bainimarama coups, with many common names and beneficiaries involved with all of Fiji’s coups.
The silences on 1987
Twenty four years later, the historians are still struggling to piece the bits together, with many missing links: who were all the real planners of the 1987 coup that deposed the NFP/FLP Coalition Government with indigenous Fijian, Bavadra, as Prime Minister?
|Rabuka: selective memory|
While Rabuka (only third in the army) implemented the coup, historians still conjecture about the knowledge of the Army Commander then (and illegal President today), Ratu Epeli Nailatikau- son-in-law of Ratu Kamisese Mara and brother-in-law of Ratu Tevita Mara (now a bitter critic of Bainimarama). Why had Nailitakau gone overseas during a time of unprecedented turmoil in Fiji, merely to “receive” a small naval boat donated by Australia? Silence.
It is well-known that each of the Three Big Chiefs of Fiji (Mara, Ganilau and Cakobau) had their own “special senior men” from their confederacies in the army, maintaining their own political balances. Most of these officers (some recently sidelined by Bainimarama), actively supported that 1987 coup and benefited personally.
Whatever may be furtively said around the grog bowls, no senior military person or senior citizen in the know has ever revealed who were involved in that 1987 coup.
Historians have established that the justifying ideologies were of indigenous Fijian political supremacy and of democracy being a “foreign flower” for Fiji.
These ideologies surfaced again in 2000 with an additional one that Indo-Fijians should never be Prime Ministers of Fiji (although in 1987, when there was an indigenous Fijian Prime Minister, Jai Ram Reddy was accused of being the “gun” firing the “Bavadra bullet” against the Fijians.
The silences on the 2000 coup
How many hundreds of senior people in Fiji knew about the 2000 coup planners?
Many in the SVT who lost power in the 1999 Election had expressed open support for the Taukei ethno-nationalist movements against the Chaudhry Government.
I belatedly realized the significance of a large group of prominent people meeting, just prior to the 2000 coup, at a neighbor’s house, frequented by former Levuka Public School students and their grog gangs. Some in this group hinted that qualified individuals would be called upon to provide alternative leadership in Fiji, and very late one night, a singer on the stage was pointed out as the future Prime Minister of Fiji.
The same grog gang would months later joke that the individual in question was about to be sworn in as part of Speight’s government, but received a call from his brother “Get the hell out of there, the army is no longer with you”. The joke went that the individual supposedly told the Speight group that he was going home to freshen up, but never returned (and thereby later missed out on the free accommodation offered at Naboro). If these indirect signs of a bigger conspiracy were being observed by someone only on the periphery, how many people must know much more about the solid facts on the planning of the 2000 coup, and are not telling?
Only recently, ten years later (but better late than never), has Ratu Tevita Mara alleged that Bainimarama supported the 2000 coup, and that after the Chaudhry Government was taken hostage in 2000, arms were freely going from the RFMF armory into Parliament, with the permission of Bainimarama and full knowledge of many senior officers.
So did senior army officers then like Frank Tarakinikini, Jone Baledrokadroka, Viliami Seruvakoula, George Kadavulevu, Naivalarua and many others, know what was going on? If so, how is it that all these army officers, even the ones working safely for UN organisations or are at universities abroad, have maintained a blanket silence about the real army plotters of the 2000 coup and their corporate supporters. Indeed, who were the corporate supporters of each of these coups (as there always are)?
How long will the public have to wait while Ratu Tevita Mara (guided by unknown advisers) releases in dribs and drabs, the important bits of information that are in the Report of the Evans Board of Inquiry into the role of the CRW soldiers and the takeover of parliament?
|Mara: dribs and drabs|
This issue is of great relevance today because many Bainimarama supporters think that he is genuinely multiracial and wants to protect minority Indo-Fijians from dominance by the indigenous majority.
The facts are that in 2000, when Bainimarama finally arrested Speight, Nata and Silatolu, he did not re-instate Mahendra Chaudhry’s 1999 government but installed Lai Qarase as Interim Prime Minister.
The Interim Administration also included individuals such as Ratu Yavala Kubuabola (former SVT Finance Minister), Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (former Leader of SVT), and Ratu Epeli Nailitikau.
Bainimarama, Rabuka and Ratu Epeli Ganilau instead of protecting their President against the Speight rabble (their sworn duty), broke their oaths and told Ratu Mara to “step aside” as President. Where in the world do army officers ask their President to “step aside” so they can just deal with a rabble group that takes over one building? Why did they do so, and on whose agenda? Silence.
How relevant is it to understanding the 2006 coup, that Bainimarama soon after the 2000 coup, had readily announced that he had abrogated the 1997 Constitution and began to pass Military Decrees.
And how important was the lesson give by the Tony Gates judgment in the Chandrika Prasad case, that the 1997 Constitution could not be abrogated by the army commander, and was still intact.
How relevant is it to Bainimarama’s claim to protect Indo-Fijian minorities that when he regained control, Bainimarama did not re-install the Chaudhry Government but Qarase’s Interim Regime, comprising mostly indigenous Fijian former SVT Ministers?
Eventually when the newly formed SDL Party in coalition with the extremist Conservative Alliance, thrashed the SVT (and the FLP narrowly) to win the 2001 elections, Qarase appointed Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (the former leader of the SVT), as Ambassador. Why would he do this when there were so many others vying from his own party? No one is saying.
Six years later, the allegedly multiracial Bainimarama also included Ratu Inoke Kubuabola and Isikeli Mataitoga, two staunch ethno nationalists, in his post-2006 coup Regime. Why these two, when he had had so many to choose from? Silence.
Why the Bainimarama and Qarase “fall out”?
There is yet another conspiracy of silence about the falling out between Bainimarama and Qarase. The obvious factor appeared to be the CRW mutiny and attempted assassination of Bainimarama (a traumatic event for any Commander of a military force), and Qarase’s release from jail of persons convicted of supporting the 2000 mutiny, and their re-appointment to top positions in the Qarase government.
But why did the CRW soldiers mutiny? What truth is there in the allegations by Ratu Tevita Mara that the CRW soldiers turned on Bainimarama because he did not keep his promises to the soldiers who did the coup allegedly at his instigation?
Qarase is on record as asserting that democracy was a foreign flower and that Fiji was not ready for an Indo-Fijian prime minister so he would not have lost any tears over the 2000 coup. But was Qarase also favorably disposed towards those who attempted the mutiny against Bainimarama?
What was the role of the Methodist Church in brokering the agreements after the 2000 coup and were there any “understandings or agreements” between Bainimarama, Qarase and the Methodist Church, which fell apart eventually? Silence from all concerned.
No one in the know is prepared to break the conspiracy of silence, not even the close advisers and ministerial colleagues of all the past Prime Ministers. One wily individual, close adviser to many Fiji Prime Ministers, must be a gold-mine of inside information (on some of which he would have to plead the US Constitution’s Fifth Amendment). But he is not telling anything, while cocooned currently at one of the Fiji universities.
Nevertheless, it is sufficiently clear from statements by former Military Officers (on the website Truth for Fiji run by Ratu Tevita Mara) that Bainimarama had started planning to remove Qarase long before the Qoliqoli Bill or the Unity and Reconciliation Bill which initially had amnesty provisions for convicted people related to the 2000 coup.
So how relevant were the police cases being prepared against Bainimarama for the deaths in custody of the CRW soldiers, or the surcharges for over-expenditure of the military budget, or his refusal also to allow the audit of the Regimental Funds (which allegedly have been abused by nearly all former Army Commanders), or eventually, Qarase’s attempt to remove him as Commander?
If these possibilities have any substance, and if it is true that Bainimarama was in support of the 2000 coup against Chaudhry, would this change the views of many current Indo-Fijian supporters of Bainimarama, media outlets like Radio Tarana, or campaigners like Croz Walsh, Thakur Ranjit Singh, and Graham Davis? Or will they press on regardless, like Winston Thompson and Peter Thompson, neither of whom are fools when it comes to Fiji’s hidden politics but choose to look the other way?
The many silences on the 2006 and 2009 coups
When Bainimarama did the 2006 coups, he heroically announced that he would eliminate all corruption and race-based politics from Fiji, stop the tyranny of the Indo-Fijian minority by the majority indigenous Fijians, end the coup culture, while making sure that no army personnel would benefit from the coup.
Five years later, these allegations are now seen as completely hollow, or even blatant lies. All evidence suggests that there were great conspiracies at work, beginning with legal conspiracies.
It is abundantly clear now that Bainimarama had learnt his legal lessons from Tony Gates’ High Court rejection of his attempted 2000 abrogation of the 1997 Constitution (where is Tony Gates now?).
|Qarase: out manouvered|
Which judges and lawyers assisted Bainimarama with his legal strategies before the 2006 coup? Who are assisting Khaiyum in drafting all the Military Decrees? Silence in the court.
In 2007, a newly appointed CEO of the Human Rights Commission, Shaista Shameem, weighed in with her flimsy pathetic justification for the 2006 treasonous removal of the Qarase government by Bainimarama, while she blithely ignored all abuse of human rights by the Bainimarama Regime. What was her role behind the scenes and in conspiracy with which lawyers and NGOs? Silence.
Others who helped by speedily joining Bainimarama’s Regime were Mahendra Chaudhry and his Fiji Labour Party, and unsuccessful politicians from the National Alliance Party, including Filipe Bole and Ratu Epeli Ganilau (a former Army Commander who had supported Bainimarama’s appointment as Commander), Ratu Epeli Nailatikau (another former Military Commander), while lurking in the back-ground was yet another former FMF commander (Paul Manueli).
With all these former FMF commanders either in Bainimarama’s Military Council or behind it, was it any wonder that the rank and file of the army remained totally in support of the 2006 coup (with lots of goodies thrown in for good measure), except for a few brave military officers who disagreed with the coup on principle, gave written advice and were soon expelled by Bainimarama.
I later realized the significance of Filipe Bole coming to my home before the 2006 coup, to pick up education material that may have been useful for a future Minister of Education (thought there is little evidence that he benefited from the material). Who else in his party were involved?
FLP stalwart, Lavenia Padarath vociferously campaigned that the 2001 and 2006 SDL victories had been through electoral fraud. Yet all evidence indicated that the votes cast were pretty well in proportion to population numbers for Fijians and Indo-Fijians, while Chaudhry despite his one year in the Military Regime, failed to reveal any real evidence of significant electoral fraud. Was it all just a red herring by the FLP to justify their support of the coup? Silence.
Electoral system enthusiasts like Rev David Arms and “good governance” organisations like CCF (Yabaki, Dakuvula and associates) dubiously alleged that the existing voting system was racially biased against minorities and jumped in to help in the alleged electoral reform by the NCBBF.
Of course the Alternative Vote system did have faults: it did marginalize small parties, but it was not particular ethnically biased. The supreme irony was that the Qarase-led SDL/FLP Government of 2006, formed under the requirements of the 1997 Constitution, was a genuine multi-party government. The SDL/FLP Cabinet did have expected teething problems over how cabinet decisions would be reached in a multi-party situation, and the necessity of adherence of all parties to the collective decisions whatever their individual views.
But this provision of the 1997 Constitution genuinely protected the minority Indo-Fijian community, and in Qarase’s last government, offered substantial Ministerial positions to the Indo-Fijian party, all credit to Qarase. Yet Chaudhry ominously chose to remain out of the Cabinet, and paradoxically even tried to replace Mick Beddoes as Leader of the Opposition, while his own FLP colleagues were in Cabinet with Qarase. Why? There is silence from the FLP.
Bainimarama supporters like Croz Walsh, Thakur Ranjit Singh and Graham Davis steadfastly ignore that it was this multi-racial multi-party SDL/FLP government that Bainimarama treasonously removed, not some allegedly ethno-nationalist and racist government of Qarase (however racist individual SDL Ministers may have been).
Note also that the electoral reform discussions were completed by the NCBBF committee by the end of 2007 (yes, we all agree that a proportional system would be better). But David Arms and his committee (including CCF) have never publicly questioned why their work was put into “cold storage” for another five years. Why the silence from them today? Will they soon come jumping out of their storage boxes when Bainimarama or Khaiyum cracks the whip again?
Critical intellectual support was given to the Military Regime by former ADB functionary John Samy, who together with the heads of the Catholic, Hindu, Muslim and other religious and Non-Government organisations (like CCF) began the grand Charter exercise through the National Council for Building a Better Fiji, essentially justifying the Bainimarama coup.
Yet there was little in the final Charter document to differentiate it from the 1997 Constitution, while its first paragraph declared the supremacy of the 1997 Constitution. Taken by soldiers all over Fiji, the Co-Chair of NCBBF (Mataca) and Samy declared it had been supported by the vast majority of Fiji people. Yet Wikileaks evidence indicates that John Samy told the US Ambassador to Fiji, that he feared that there was intimidation.
They steadfastly maintain their conspiracy of silence, despite Bainimarama’s clear betrayal of their work for the NCBBF and the Charter.
The continuing silences despite “seeing the light”
What did Mahendra Chaudhry and his FLP colleagues know about the planning of the 2006 coup? Was it merely a coincidence that the late Jokapeci Koroi (President of the Fiji Labour Party) had publicly called on Bainimaramama to remove Qarase from government? And Jokapeci Koroi’s sister (Dr Jiko) soon after jumped in as Minister?
Despite being kicked out of the Regime and despite the muted criticisms that they make of Bainimarama today, Chaudhry and his FLP colleagues have remained totally silent about his expulsion from the Regime.
There are other silences too, even on the current pro-democracy side.
While Ratu Tevita Mara attacks Bainimarama and Khaiyum, he says nothing at all about the role of his brother-in-law, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, whose treasonous acceptance of the President’s position is underlined by his monthly signing of the Public Emergency Regulations and the never-ending Decrees which take away our basic human rights of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and our fundamental rights to private property and lawful contracts.
Ratu Tevita Mara also remains quiet about his other brother-in-law, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, who also readily joined the Military Regime, and was also later expelled by Bainimarama under unknown circumstances to do with proposed taxes on Fiji Water.
Also maintaining their conspiracy of silence are pro-Bainimarama supporters who have withdrawn from public view, like Petero Mataca, Rishi Ram, Kamlesh Arya, Akuila Yabaki and Jone Dakuvula (the last two being key members of the now inappropriately named Citizens Constitutional Forum).
Also silent about the past is Shaista Shameem who now fights legal battles for pensioners and unions whose basic human right are being viciously denied by the same Military monster she helped to create in 2006); and Naz Shameem who daily preaches about good governance and the need for whistle-blowers- but averts her eyes from the gross abuse of these principles by the Military Regime.
The apologetic Yabaki now calls for international support for Bainimarama’s alleged plan to have elections in 2014 i.e. essentially accept treason and allow the mess to continue for another three years. Was the CCF one of the NGOs who Bainimarama claims supported his plan to carry out the 2006 coup? Another silence.
Also remaining quiet are coup supporters like Father Kevin Barr, who is now publicly expressing disillusionment with Bainimarama, despite being forced by the media censorship in Fiji to express his unhappiness only on overseas media like Radio ABC and NZ, or on Croz Walsh’s blog.
Barr still refuses to recognize that his worthy work for the Wages Council has been completely undermined by the fundamental and larger damage done to the economy and employers’ capacity to pay, by Bainimarama’s treasonous coup, and his illegal Regime’s policies and refusal to support his Wages Councils.
John Samy may be disillusioned today with many of Bainimarama’s unaccountable and non-transparent actions which contradict the Charter. But he certainly is not revealing what took place just before the final abrogation of the 1997 Constitution in 2009.
Currently, John Samy salves his conscience with band-aid work on a Fiji which is bleeding profusely from the many massive wounds inflicted by the Bainimarama Regime which he helped to strengthen between 2007 and 2009 with his Charter propaganda and other work behind the scenes we know nothing about.
The cancerous conspiracies of silence
It is therefore evident that thousands of very intelligent and senior citizens of Fiji (and expatriates) have known detailed facts about the planning and implementation of one or other of the coups of 1987, 2000, 2006 and 2009, which the public still do not know.
No coup leaders or collaborators have revealed their roles in the coups, or even publicly acknowledged their mistakes.
It is understandable therefore that those who were victims of the 1987 and 2000 coups, have little sympathy for those who are currently opposing the Bainimarama Regime.
Many genuinely doubt if the current pro-democracy movements against Bainimarama are really driven by principles, or merely because “their leader” and their interests are being harmed by Bainimarama.
Of course, some coup victims enjoy the sight of past beneficiaries “getting their just deserts” (read the anonymous blogs). But many genuinely believe, helped by the conspiracy of silence over the 2000 events, that Bainimarama is fighting for racial equality in Fiji.
So the vicious cycle continues, fed by all these cancerous conspiracies of silence.
Our abject abdication of social responsibility
Sociologists and psychologists need to explore another strange but related phenomenon: the abject failure of Fiji’s senior citizens to publicly offer guidance to Fiji’s citizens, at a time when the country is in total disarray.
How many senior citizens - from the corporate sector, religious, social, political, academia and even leadership organisations- have publicly come out in defense of our basic human rights so badly eroded today (Rev. Koroi is the brave swallow that does not make the summer!).
Like Pontius Pilate they have either washed their hands off all responsibility, or actively collaborate with the Military Regime, to further their own personal interests.
Some depart while maintaining their personal dignity while abdicating their duty and responsibility that comes with their social positions.
Our senior citizens, through their silence, are allowing an entire young Fiji generation to grow up accepting the treasonous removal of a lawfully elected government, and the daily addressing and respectful treatment of an illegal Regime as “Honorable Prime Minister”, “Honorable Attorney General”, “Honorable Minister” and “His Excellency the President”.
But why blame our ordinary powerless people when even ambassadors to Fiji, representatives of powerful international organisations (like IMF, World Bank and UN), vice chancellors of universities, and prominent corporate citizens do so as well, giving the naked emperors in Fiji the illusion that they are fully clothed.
The conspiracies of silence also allow Bainimarama supporters like Croz Walsh, Graham Davis and Winston Thomson to keep repeating the dishonest Bainimarama/Khaiyum propaganda internationally, while deliberately ignoring all the evils which give the lie to Bainimarama’s “Charter” and alleged “Road-Map” (to nowhere).
These cancerous conspiracies of silence undermine genuine reconciliation in Fiji and any attempt to build a genuine better Fiji; and they also prevent pro-democracy movements in Fiji and abroad from getting the support they deserve.