Wednesday, November 01, 2006


After months of threats and tension, it looks like Fiji's slow-burning political crisis is finally coming to a head. Army Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has been threatening the government for the last year over corruption, budget cuts, and its controversial Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, which would grant amnesty to those involved in and responsible for the 2000 coup. So yesterday the government tried to replace him while he was out of the country. The military refused - in effect declaring its independence from the legitimate and elected civilian authority. Now they've been conducting "exercises" around Suva, and have called up the reserves for next week's budget, effectively threatening to overthrow the government.

This is unacceptable in a democracy. A bedrock principle of democratic government is that those trusted with guns - the military and the police - are subservient to the civil power. Otherwise, you don't have a democracy, but a military dictatorship waiting to happen. If Commodore Bainimarama doesn't like what the government is doing, his response should be to resign his commission, run for election, and win a mandate from the people. Sadly, he'd rather be a dictator and threaten the government with guns.

Unfortunately, there's not much we can do about it other than apply diplomatic pressure (which counterproductively validates the army's claim to power). There's no military option - New Zealand is not capable of invading Fiji, and nor would we want to - so the best we can do is impose trade sanctions and travel bans on those involved, and provide a safe haven to anybody who wants to get out.


A (possible) solution would be to ensure as many Fijian soldiers as possible are posted overseas with UN peacekeeping duties, as they have been doing for a long time in the Middle East and elsewhere. If the UN can persuade the Fijian Government to put its entire defence force at its disposal that would assist the UN and lessen the opportunity for idle soldiers at home to create political mischief.

Posted by Hans Versluys : 11/01/2006 01:59:00 PM

Uroskin: they already do that - about two thirds of the Fijian military are serving as peacekeepers or with the US occupation in Iraq (its an important source of revenue for the government).

Reading around a bit, I get the impression that this has a lot more to do with threatened budget cuts and attempts to reduce the size of the military than with corruption and bad laws.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/01/2006 02:05:00 PM

New Zealand isn't capable of successfully invading the Chatham Isles, let alone Fiji.


Posted by Anonymous : 11/01/2006 02:35:00 PM

If I was the Fijian government I'd order the entire army (or at least the officers) to charge across the North Korean DMZ. With faulty rifles.

Seriously they should really try and disband the army and replace it with a force that's too small to mount a coup.

Posted by Rich : 11/01/2006 06:08:00 PM

I wouldn't be so sure. A frigate or two in Suva harbour, with a helicopter gunship or two would send a pretty strong message...

Posted by Anonymous : 11/02/2006 11:18:00 PM

M'Lud: New Zealand isn't capable of successfully invading the Chatham Isles, let alone Fiji

Good. As I said, I don't want New Zealand to be the sort of country that invades places. Not having much of a military stops the politicians from getting tempted into US or Aussie-style "swinging dick" tactics.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 11/03/2006 01:36:00 AM

NZ's best strategy in most situations is pretty much in order of likelyhood

1) suport our allies but get out of the way (ie supply food if required but not soldiers because we don't want to be the weak point in a front line)

2) surender and beg for mercy
(no point fighting a china for example)

3) send a boat or two and bombard niue into submission
(ie the couple of islands we could actualy defeat)

4) guerilla resistance
(if we rally are invaded by someone evil and after aplying strategy 2 they continue to beat us up)

none of which require a particularly complicated or large army.

Posted by Genius : 11/03/2006 07:27:00 AM