Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Fiji: the long-term solution

Fiji has seen four military coups in the past 22 years. So what's the long-term solution to this problem of self-appointed strongmen with guns? Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malilelegaoi has it: get rid of the military:

Samoa’s PM suggests that Fiji’s future is uncertain. Even if elections are held there is no guarantee that a civilian government would not be toppled.

“If Bainimarama goes and there is a return to civilian government,” Tuilaepa explains, “I feel there will be many other Bainimaramas who (may come forward) in the future.

“(This is) because it is very easy to pick up a gun and wave it at people,” he says.

“And if you have many of your boys in the army, this would make it even easier (for you) to carry out what you want.”

Tuilaepa says “the picture that’s emerging is that countries that have no armies are the ones that are most peaceful, (and they are where the) money goes to development.”

(It should probably be pointed out here that Samoa has no military at all...)

He's right. Fiji's history shows that the army is the biggest actual threat to the country's security - simply a training ground and armoury for would-be dictators. It wastes 6.5% of all government revenue, money which could be spent for the benefit of Fiji's people - and that proportion is growing as the coup commanders channel funds to their support base. In the long-term, they would unquestionably be better off without it.

Malilelegaoi's comments have been widely reported in Fiji. It will be interesting to see what the Fijians think of them.