Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fiji: it's over

The Fijian coup is over. Scoop reports that President Ratu Josefa Iloilo has signed an order dissolving Parliament and placing the military in charge. This perhaps isn't surprising, given that Commodore Bainimarama effectively put him in charge after the coup of 2000 - but it is disappointing. I'd have expected Fiji's President to defend its constitutional system (on which his position and authority depend), not to collude with the military in abrogating it.

Meanwhile, the media have been forced away from Prime Minister Qarase's home, and it seems that he is under house arrest. Hopefully they'll leave it at that - but they seem to want a bloodless takeover, so they'll likely be satisfied with simply removing him from office.

The problem now is the future. The new regime (whoever they are) will at one stage or another have to hold elections (at least if it wants to legitimise its status or be seen as anything other than an imposed military dictatorship). But elections mean an eventual loss of control, and future governments may very well attempt to prosecute the perpetrators of this atrocity against democracy, or introduce the same policies Bainimarama just vetoed at gunpoint. And so the cycle looks like it will repeat itself, until the army accepts its subordinate position or is disbanded.


NZ needs to make it clear to the Fijian military that actions have consequences.

We should:
- pass a law criminalising coup participation so that if any ranking member of the Fijian military sets foot in NZ in the future, they're looking at a long time in jail.

- freeze all Fijian controlled bank accounts and only release them on proven non-involvement with the coup

- ban any airline or shipping line that serves Fiji from using NZ ports & airports.

- obviously block all aid and any sporting contacts.

- do our best to ensure that Fijian troops are excluded from any peacekeeping activities

Finally, only lift these measures when Fiji has not only reinstated civilian government, but replaced it's military with a much smaller force under strict civilian control and purged of the insurrectionists.

Posted by Rich : 12/05/2006 02:25:00 PM

Rich: while I disapprove of coups, I disapprove even more of retrospective criminal liability and "guilty until proven innocent". However, I think evicting the Fijian military from UN peacekeeping forces will send a very strong message which will hit them where it hurts - in their childish obsession with military prestige, and in the pocket - and it is something we should be working on.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/05/2006 02:45:00 PM

the problem with that sort of strategy is you are likely to become like the USA in iraq. The two sides hate eachother but they hate YOU much more.

Posted by Genius : 12/05/2006 06:48:00 PM

.."childish obsession with military prestige" ?? Would you say that of the US military complex, I/S?

Evicting the Fiji military out of the UN peacekeeping force will hurt many beyond the military who depend on those earnings. Poverty and inequality are at the root of the instability in the Pacific; no point in making things worse.

It's appropriate to declare our disapproval of the undemocratic actions of Bainimarama et al, but some of the "solutions" in this thread are simply punitive and patronising.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/05/2006 10:13:00 PM

Fiji Times has suspended publication rather than be subject to censorship.


Presumably, the online media will continue to publish, as happened in 2000.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/05/2006 10:58:00 PM

Anon: ..."childish obsession with military prestige" ?? Would you say that of the US military complex, I/S?

Yes, I would. But then, I don't admire bullies, and I don't think being big is necessarily something to be proud of.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/05/2006 11:17:00 PM

I thought the Fijian military had already been suspended from UN activities, or been warned of the consequenses to a coup?

Dunno where I read that though...

Posted by Anonymous : 12/06/2006 11:24:00 AM

Why are Australia and NZ taking a more robust stance against the Fiji coup than they did against the one in Thailand recently? Why did Bush accept the Thai coup but has been quick to apply sanctions to Fiji? I'd say it's because there are strategic issues at stake in the Pacific; it's not just because of a moral objection to the armed overthrow of a democratically-elected government. It's important to keep that wider context in mind, IMO.

While I'm personally strongly opposed to the Fiji coups (all of them), I'm also a bit uncomfortable with the idea of NZ taking on the role of Pacific Police. Unless we find ways to help the Fiji people resist this latest attack, more of them will be persuaded that the big countries of the Pacific are bullies, rather than saviours.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/07/2006 12:22:00 AM

Anon: the US did not accept the Thai coup; it condemned it, and later cut US$24 million of military aid. The New Zealand government likewise condemned it. The reason New Zealand is being tougher is that we have a far closer relationship with Fiji than we do with Thailand, and therefore far more levers available.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/07/2006 01:26:00 AM

The times online (5/12) reports

Bananarama's demands pre-coup were
1 the proposed bill which would release those responsible for the 2000 coup be dropped
2. B'rama not be prosecuted for sedition for his threats
3. The Aussie police commissioner be removed

These demands were agreed to in writing before the coup... so why go ahead with the coup

Posted by Anonymous : 12/07/2006 07:49:00 AM

I/S - the US suspended $24m of aid and then was one of the first countries to send their diplomats to meet the new Thailand PM. Now George is sending his dad over for a friendly meeting with the king, who approves the coup:


My point was about the proportionality of response. NZ pulls out all the stops to punish
Fiji because it can - Fiji needs us more than we need them. It is worth noting that Fiji NGOs, who have been at the forefront of resistance to Fiji's coupsters and their apologists, have spoken out against the widespread sanctions, and the Fiji Trades Union has protested the exclusion of Fiji from the guest workers scheme.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/08/2006 08:14:00 AM