Notes from New Zealand
I was dismayed to read Dr Satendra Nandan's account of the 2006 coup as a lesser of two evils.
After attending a seminar in
It appears that the Fijian academics see a need to be as conciliatory as possible towards the military, probably in the hope that they may serve a constructive role in the return to democracy
(by democracy we assume an elected government in whatever form, the preservation and observation of BASIC human rights, and self determination - not military determination).
This is not an unreasonable stance to take ALTHOUGH I would suggest they need be careful to provide reasoned arguments in their analysis, and in the way they convey analysis to the media.
Where they are unable to do this, they lay themselves open to a criticism of self-interest. This in itself is unhelpful since they, presumably will be called upon to assist in the future in a return to "normalcy". Dr Nandan is in danger of damaging is ability to impartially assist in future should he want to, though his personal opinions must be respected. Comments of this nature are about as useful as those of a Human Rights Commissioner wishing to destroy a reputation.
In the case of Dr Ratuva, I was only able to ask two brief questions due to limited time, and challenge him on his definition of a successful coup. He noted in his Fiji Times article, "successful coups" was in inverted commas, and that the definition was not that clear.
My point to him was to have been that regime change was one OUTCOME which may or may not be positive, BUT along with several other OUTCOMES which also may or may not be positive (e.g. deaths, beatings, economy, entrenchment of coup culture, human rights abuses on the down side, with perhaps some others seen as beneficial, though I struggle hard to think of them at present - possibly instilling fear amongst the corrupt - but even then, also instilling fear amongst the honest, including perhaps some academics).In an analysis of coups, one must be careful not to forget or de-emphasise the negative aspects especially when they may very well have longer lasting effect AND set the future up for a whole NEW round of grievances and dissatisfaction. In passing he did note that one had to test the water in terms of one's comments.
I'll briefly summarise Ratuva's analysis which, despite some previous and possibly misreported comments, I found fairly balanced but incomplete, though once again, time constraints prevented clarification:
- 2006: A "new" type of coup - a coup by stealth;
- A non-ethno-nationalist justification;
- Reform oriented (rather than reactionary);
- Not as dramatic as 87 and 2000, for example no hostages. (Here one may take issue - not simply Qarase, but those hostages to the Military in an economic, political and social sense: i.e. the disempowerment, the growth in economic hardship, and the damage done in depriving people the right to move and communicate unimpeded, and to live without fear of reprisal from a regime that seeks to become legitimised)
- The impact of those influences may be very damaging on society particularly when there are attempts to minimise their effects.
- He noted dynamic interaction between political, economic and socio-cultural factions.
- Tension is at a political level NOT a community level (I took him to mean in a general sense, NOT the often unproductive comments sometimes seen in cyberspace that are more representative of frustration and the legacy of hurt - and here I am tempted to include that felt by Dr Satendra Nandan that is evident in his literary works: one can forgive him should his emotion overcome academic reason).
He defined the ethno-political tensions as follows:
- Electoral designs, ethnic representation, convergence of political and ethnic identities
- (Ethnic ID = Political ID)
- Ethnic opportunism, entrepreneurship and mobilisation
- Ethnicised governance
- Socio-cultural stereotyping
- Diversion through scapegoating
- Ethnic competition over state power
- Ethnicised political culture
- Power struggle within communities
- Ethnicised coups
The seminar (briefly, due to time constraints) analysed the stages of coups:
- Assuming Executive Authority;
- Formalisation of Military Council;
I would like to have posed further questions on the "success" and completeness of all those stages. With all the above in mind, it still remains clear that a swift return to an elected regime is essential, and that includes getting the military out of government.
One can argue that the military serves a role, and because of history, is an integral part of society and the administration but its role has no BETTER right to power than does any other institution.
- TRAVP was a regular poster on the Fiji Village Talk forum until it was closed down by Communications Fiji Limited.