Another Fiji coup?

Reports have emerged again about the possibility of another coup occuring in Fiji. I don’t know what the chance of this really happening is, but I am sure the underlying issues are more complex than is likely to be portrayed through most media reports. You can read an interesting perspective on the dynamics in Fiji on Webdiary by Dr Mark Hayes, who has worked and travelled in the region for many years.

This situation has reminded me again how little Australians know about other countries in our region – and I’d include myself in this category. Whilst there is some minimal recognition about the need to further engage with some South-East Asian countries such as Indonesia, there is still a long way to go.

However, whatever ignorance we have about our South-East Asian neighbours, it pales into insignificance compared with our lack of meaningful engagement or even interest in Pacific Island nations. Despite the regular comments that Indonesia and Papua New Guinea are our closest neighbours, if you look at where the vast majority of Australian live, which is clustered on the coastline from South-East Queensland downwards, it is even stranger that we have so little interest in our Pacific Island neighbours, (apart from possible holiday destinations).

My only travel to a Pacific Island country has been three trips to Nauru. This was mainly to visit the detention centres there, but it gave me some insight into the huge difficulties that country faces. Every nation in the Pacific is different and has different challenges and opportunities, but I believe Australia should be putting much more effort into engaging meaningfully with governments and communities in the Pacific.

For anyone interested in a general overview of some of these issues, have a look at the Senate Committee report from 2003 into Australia’s relationship with PNG and other Pacific Island countries.

UPDATED: Saturday. 14th Jan, 11.30pm
The piece I referred to above on webdiary has been updated following some of the latest Australian media reports. The author still basically dismissed the likelihood of a coup. Worth reading, particularly because of the local background knowledge. Amongst that update is a copy of a report from Radio New Zealand quoting a local Fijian political scientist, which I’ve copied below:

Fiji coup threat ‘psychological coercion’: academic

8:40am on 14 Jan 2006

A Fijian political scientist has dismissed threats by the country’s military commander to oust the government, calling it smart psychological coercion.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama threatened to overthrow the government after it pushed ahead with legislation which could give amnesty to people convicted of involvement in the 2000 coup.

Dr Steven Ratuva of the University of the South Pacific says the Commodore is only pushing debate into the public arena about the government and how it handles its transition from the last coup.

Dr Ratuva says the Fiji people do not want another coup but they do want political change and redress of injustice.

Government and military leaders say they do not believe another coup is about to take place and say the situation has been been misread by uninformed observers.

Commodore Bainimarama says New Zealand tourists looking at a Fiji holiday have nothing to fear because they will be safe in a stable country.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is due to meet Commodore Bainimarama on Monday.

NOTE: Further posts on when the coup actually happened in December 2006 can be found here and here.

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12 Comments

  1. So-called ‘failed states’ run into problems, I suspect, because they are trying to implement western style democracies that are inappropriate for their people and their culture, thus excluding or alienating large sectors of the population.

    We should remember also that all western style democracy, though a pretty good system on the whole, is based on the use of violence to establish its base of law and came into fruition through violence (the French ‘Revolution’ is an excellent example). The ultimate implimentation of law is based on the threat of force – being locked up, or even being shot by ones armed forces. This violent element permeates the whole western democratic system, as witnessed by the constant warring states situation in Europe. We need to be aware of it and exorcise it from our systems of government. It may perhaps be a contributor to the ‘failed state’ syndrome somehow.

  2. Well this coup is interesting. The government wants to put criminals back on the street, so the milatary says no if you do pass the bill there will be a coup.
    Coup to straiten out prev. coups.

    I agree with the milatary, Quarse and his governement are rotten to the core with racial bills to keep the island nation of Fiji from joining the modern world.

    I agree with the commander, but to do a coup is wrong, I would have done what every other person has done, take to the court. In todays day is it OK to have racial dicrimnation exist?

  3. … all western style democracy … is based on the use of violence to establish its base of law

    So is every other system of government. Why pick on western democracy?

  4. Nov 6, 2006
    The Military has taken over running Fiji. It is only interm until we can have a genuine ‘legal election’. The last election was totally rigged and most here in Fiji know it. More ballots were counted than people who voted by thousands, and only selected Afro-Fijians were allowed to count the ballots. The army will supervise the next one. At least half the population (indians, expats or others who own property or run businesses) are openly or privately celebrating freedom from the previous racist and avaricious ruler who they have been suffering quietly under or migrating away from. There has been no freedom of speach for expats or government workers in Fiji for years. If they even write letters to the newspapers against governent policy or actions, they will be fired or kicked out of the country. That is dictatorship, not democracy. The latest government move was to silence all disadent voices like Mahendra Chaudry by getting him into the government so he also must tow the party line. Then sales taxes (vat) were raised from 10 to 15%, which is incredible hardship for people whose average daily wage is ten dollars and who pay 12 dollars for 10 kgs rice. Resorts and hotels were illegally slapped with another 3% tax on top of that and Afro-Fijians were given all water in rivers and oceans as well as many meters of land next to it, to tax or restrict those who wish to use it. It is amazing that one man, Commander Frank Banimarama, has the intelligence, conviction and stregnth to put himself and his troups on the line for the country and people he cares so much about. Its not really a coup-it is the answered prayers of hundreds of thousands of Hindus and others in the form of this Spiritual Warrior. Please try to understand and speak the truth about this event. Thank you

  5. To the benefit of all those hypocrites condeming the current stance taken by the Fiji Military Forces, including our closest trading partners and allies (Aust & NZ), it would do you well to first peel back the layers of inanimate “democracy” that has been prevailent within the Fijian Socio-Political environment before slapping on crude bans that will further amplify the destitution of the innocent sufferers of this country.
    The Qarase led govt has twisted & bent and flexed the law to an extent worthy of an Olympic performance, and yet the so called watchdogs of democracy stood in silence whilst close to half the population of this country continued to sink below the poverty line. Perpetrators of the 2000 coup were given Ministrial Portfolios in the Qarase govt & covicted coup felons released withins weeks of being sentenced, as the govt flexed its mighty muscles to brush aside any opposition to these hideous acts with the utmost of ease. Corrupt ministers blew millions of our hard earned money into the southern breeze and yet they were merely moved into other ministries to continue with their arrogant & idiotic behaviour. Sales Tax (VAT) rose to 15%, hospitals had no money to facilitate anything mildly resembling hospital facilities, crater-sized holes have become a common navigational factor on Fiji roads, all whilst the Govt is creating more unneccesary post for Ministers and passing ammendments giving themselves higher salaries! Mate I could go on for ever and ever, but unfortunately, unlike our govt, I have to actually work to pay my bills.. Qarase could just sink his teeth deeper into our superannuation, and then float millions of dollars of bonds into the international market.
    And oh, lets not forget the certified FREE & FAIR Elections that we had 5 months ago (or so says the EU.) where 000’s of extra ballot papers mysteriously appeared out of nowhere for critical seats,tampered ballot boxes, & what not..Could the EU have been wrong??..NO!!! Thank u Frank!

  6. soooo ….

    because some of the people who perpetrated the last coup got away with little or no punishment, we need to carry out another coup? Will there need to be another coup in five years to punish the people who carried out this coup?

  7. No, we needed this action to be taken so that our children wouldn’t be living in another banana state. I am as much against a coup as the next person, but a choice had to be made, and I believe the lesser of the two evils had be chosen. Our Attorney General Q Bale, was convicted of a serious crime Misappropriation
    of Funds and barred from the legal fraternity and yet under Qarase he held
    one of the most senior positions in government and he helped to design the Unity Bill-hows that?And this is the same bill that will allow coup convicts to walk free. but that is the least of our concerns right now….how about the Qoliqoli bill, which will sink our tourism industry into an abyss, and since tourism is our largest foreign earner, we need to worry. Or how about the Lands claim bill which allows a certain sector of society to claim back freehold land from their owners even though they already own almost 90% of the land in this country. Let us not forget the intricate web of corruption prevailent in our country, perpetrated by these same leaders. And oh oh, let me not forget to mention the huge increase in violent robberies against a particular sector of society, encouraged by the radical and law bending policies of the current regime, something that used to be so rare!
    Spare a thought for our future generations, our national debt has TRIPLED since this govt came into power….TRIPLED…in 5 yrs!..and even then our govt coffers are still empty! Our sperannuation is under great threat as the govt has their YES man heading it..so when the govt needs some money..the man says YES!The true financial state of our super is shrouded in corrupt practices.The rich and powerful make millions illegally whilst upto 50% of the pop struggle just to put enough food on the table for their families.I understand everyone’s anger at the coup..I used to be one of you…but what choice did we have?Please fully understand the situation & refrain from selective reading!

  8. I still think racism plays a very big part in the problems in Fiji.

    For many years, I had Indian neighbours who came here from Fiji in the mid-1980s.

    Until her death, the grandmother was a very close friend of mine. She was half Fijian native and half Indian, and I’d say she had suffered a huge amount of racial prejudice coming from both sides, despite the fact she was the widow of an eminent Indian cardiologist.

    She was an excellent speaker of English, Fijian and Hindi. In group gatherings, she often acted as an interpreter.

    Fijian natives are a very generous race of people (a trait often observed in Granny) and it is my belief that Indians are very exploitative of their generous natures.

    I cannot imagine any of the Fijian Indians I know being even remotely interested in empowering the native people.

  9. I don’t know about Fiji, but it looks like racism is a problem with Coral, based on those comments anyway. There’s nothing like grand sweeping statements dismissing a whole race of people to advance a debate.

  10. Fiji is not a suburb of Australia or New Zealand. It would be great if Fiji can replay the economic miracle of India who were portrayed by the ‘so called western democracies’ as a pariah state after India’s nuclear blast.
    India knew that all aid comes with strings. India inspite of its poverty attained a record 8% growth and in next 50 years could be a leading superpower. Remember attained freedom from the servile British only 60 years ago. So Commander if you have the right dynamics and play your cards well, the western democracies will become your ally as the world’s so called economic superpower is of Military commander Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. Has not NZ opened a Pakistan Consulate in New Zealand?

  11. Adele:

    I am not a racist. I was speaking of the Indians I know, not a whole race of people.

    Please read for understanding instead of criticism.

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