Friday, December 01, 2006

Fiji is now a military dictatorship

So, it has come to this: Fiji is now a military dictatorship in all but name. The Fijian military waves its guns, and the democratically elected Prime Minister accedes to their demands. Like DPF, I think it would have been better for Prime Minister Qarase to stand on principle and refuse, and make the military take the name and shame as well as the power, rather than giving them even a tarnished aura of democracy to cloak themselves with. But then, I'm not the person faced with having a gun held to my head.

Unfortunately, it looks like even this show of acquiesence isn't enough, with Commodore Bainimarama setting a noon deadline for the government to submit totally or he will overthrow them. And no matter what happens, Fijian democracy will be the loser.


in government people are always faced with pragmatic sorts of decisions. such as teh need not to push through a policy they know will inevitably result in something bad for the country - even if that is mediated by a military commander.

I think he did the right thing to compromise at least a bit. Unless there was some foreign guarantee that he could rely on (which I presume there is not). of course he probably did it because he doesnt want to be out of a job.

Posted by Genius : 12/01/2006 06:33:00 AM

Why doesnt the PM just sack the commander? Last time I looked military commanders dont threaten their civilian employers and expect to keep drawing their generous salary...

Posted by Anonymous : 12/01/2006 11:47:00 AM

Millsy: they tried to; the military waved its guns and effectively declared their independence from civilian control. That alone should be sufficient for a mutiny charge - but they're hardly likely to court martial themselves.

In the long term, it is clear that Fiji has to disband its army. They are more of a threat to democracy than anythin gthey are supposed to be "defending" against. But I suspect any attempt to do so or even to cut the budget will result in a similar waving of guns and threat to overthrow the government.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/01/2006 11:52:00 AM

Fiji has a coup about every 8 to 10 years. They are right on schedule.

I was in Fiji during the last coup. I think it was June 2000. The previous coup was in 1992, before that 1987. I think only the first Prime Minister, who served from 1972 to 1987 has not been removed from office by a coup.

My understanding is that the basic issue is yet another artifact of colonialism. The population is about 55% ethnic Fijian and about 40% the decendents of Indian indentured labourers imported by the British for the cane industy. The ethnic Fijian majority wants a representative democracry, but they don't want an Indian Prime Minister or control of Parliament. But, the Fijians tend to split their votes, often along tribal lines, and are sometimes apathetic about voting. The Indians vote strategically. The results are fairly predictable.

At least their coups seem to be bloodless. Last time I was there, seven guys with 5 guns between them took over the Parliament building. The police were so accomadating. They let them come and go, bring in supplies etc. and allowed them access to the media to rally people to their support.

Posted by CoteGauche : 12/01/2006 12:54:00 PM

This just in (12.30 pm FJT 1 December) from the Fiji Times, offers potential for a novel solution to the situation:

"Commodore Bainimara has meanwhile gone to the Post Fiji Stadium to watch his Army team take on Police in a soccer match as part of the annual Sukuna Bowl competition.

The annual event on the disciplined services calendar ends this afternoon with the much-anticipated rugby union clash between the services.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/01/2006 01:52:00 PM

word 'on the street' is that while this might hurt Fiji by reducing EU and australian aid, China is interested in picking up the slack.
'Fiji is a close friend of China' afterall.

Posted by Genius : 12/02/2006 02:51:00 PM