March 23, 2007

A coup by any other name...

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 Wellington this week – "Couped Up Again in Fiji” – given by Dr Steven Ratuva, the environment in which academics are operating in Fiji was made more clear: more by what was NOT said, and from the minimal audience questions due to time constraints. It seemed clear that the majority present also saw the situation as unfortunate – to be polite.

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

One may ask which of the above tensions are present under this current regime and which might be more accentuated as an unintended consequence.

The seminar (briefly, due to time constraints) analysed the stages of coups:

  1. Assuming Executive Authority;
  2. Formalisation of Military Council;
  3. Administration;
  4. Re-democratisation.

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.


mawdsomething said...

Great post Travp. Good to see you're still alive and kicking. I would like to include your post in my blog ( if you and the Intelligentsiya gang don't mind.

Stay you might rember me as FijianBlack

Frank Vore said...

TRAVP its good to see you here. Interesting comments indeed. I wonder if these so called academic types do really appreciate the circumstances around the coups in Fiji or are they merely theorising? exercising their skills in analysing the coup from ethno political/social bull crap.

Lets go back to Rabuka's coup just for simplicity. Basically the Fiji Military is too small to cater for its higly trained officers. Rabuka was one...he had been to numerous overseas training and served overseas in Peacekeeping duties. After sometime he still found himself as no. 3 in the military heirachy and that was not good enough for him. At one point he defied the Commander as Commending Officer in the Middle East, he was recalled and faced disciplinary action. There were proposals then that he will join the Fiji Prison Service but the Governor General intervened and he continued with the military and was not disciplined. From there on out Rabuka wanted the No. 1 post in the Army but he knew it would be a long shot.

The political scene in 87 provided him with the impetus to make his move. To do so he had to come up with an acceptable reason, in particular for the idegeneous people. This he did to the max on the pretext of Fijian sovereignity over their land and country. He not only made it as Commander but the taste of power prompted him to make the second coup and take over as PM. He went on to win the elections and turned his back on indegeneous supremacy which he rode on to power. He finally lost out and became a political outcast. Who benefitted in the end...Rabuka himself and close supporters, relatives and friends.

The same happened in 2000 where Speight was kicked out by Chaudary from the Fiji Hardwood Board. So he jumped in due to the political environment but this time he lost out. The reason was similar to the one used by Rabuka but division within the military prevented them. Speight is in Prison but most of his backers made it benefitted from the fiasco.

Now enter the dragon. So much has been said about Voreqe for saving the country from anarchy. But let us not be carried away. First as Commander of the military its his job to safeguard the government and the country. That is what he is paid to do. But he stuffed up really bad, he removed his Commander in Chief, kicked out the legitimate government and installed an interim one that went on to win the election. For a short time he tasted power and he became adicted to it. He could not let go and decided that the government owed him for saving the country. When government refuses to tow the line he begins to look for reasons to remove it. Like Rabuka he now wants the top job. who benefits? He wanted an acceptable reason so he had to change from the previous ones. This time Voreqe played to the support of the Indian and international community citing racial discrinatory policies and coruption. He build up the tempo overtime but nonetheless it was still a coup and nothing else. So who has benefited thus far? Voreqe, his supporters, relatives and friends.

In the final analyses, the people suffer and they are required for the noble course of helping save beloved Fiji from economic collapse. No wonder the workers are united to go on strike. Why should they be made to suffer everytime some idiot thinks he can do a better job then those voted in by the people.

Whodat said...

I have to say I was rather underwhelmed by Steve Ratuva's analysis, although at least this time he wasn’t as wide of the mark as his pre-coup Times harangue of foreign journos for sensationalising the likelihood of a coup. There is a saying that business execs often use on their middle management - "I don't pay you to tell me the problem, I pay you to tell me the solution". Ratuva's is a very problem-oriented dissertation that didn't speak much at all to the moods of frustration and pain, and the desire to avoid a repeat, which are so becoming so prevalent amongst the Fiji populace now. Although I know Nandan and Ratuva are not representative of broad academic sentiment regarding the coup, it's still a bit of sod's choice between Ratuva's damp squib and Nandan's howling folly. So on the whole, I think Fiji academia is going to have to do better than this if they truly want to avoid having "resistance" to the coup defaulting to the kind of unproductive negativity TRAVP fretted about in his post.

Bai Ni Vore said...

frank vore - great write up and analysis of the voreqe coup. hope someone could print that , translate it to Fijian and disseminate it to the masses. counter the nai lalakai propaganda that the pathological egotist is dishing out.

Anonymous said...

Shoot the messenger and cry human rights abuse.

Anonymous said...

Its quite surprising that this website was not created after the 2000 coup. So much talk about democracy now but where were all this talk during the 2000 coup? Its quite evident that the creators of this website are staunch supporters hurting from the rightful removal of the corrupt Qarase regime. Democracy has never changed its meaning over the centuries so I don't see why some dogs are barking now and not in 1987 or 2000.

Also, to say you're silently expressing your oppostion to this long overdue most welcomed regime change speaks a lot about your true characters. Christ, Mandella or Mahatma Ghandi spoke bravely without hiding their faces. Actions from such brave revered men certainly brought about massive changes thats still lingers today.

In no way did they ever attempted to conceal their identities. Unlike the cowardly creators of intelligentsiya who conceal their identities, all the big talk relating to the 2006 coup only won't bring any changes. You dogs can continue barking behind your fences. You would only gain respect if you were barking from 1987 till now. Unfortunately thats not the case with you SDL supporters. What would hurt you guys more is a snap referendum today would clearly reveal that 82% of the population support the removal of the corrupt Qarase regime. By the way I'm a full blooded Fijian.

Have a great time maintaining this blog site and continue barking.

resistfrankscoup said...

People, check out our blog Freedom for Fiji!!

Anonymous said...

Agree with bai ni vore - Please someone translate what is being said vakaviti and send it it Intelligentsiya so it can be broadcast - it is sooooooooo needed out there !

Maope Tivili said...

Isa you makubuni polo bona's and maga bona's. You only choose to publish comments that favours SDL. Continue hiding and barking from behind that fence. It is a well known fact that dogs who bark so aggressively from behind their fenced compounds will never ever hurt you.

Isa my makubuni ulukau's, thanks for creating for dogs who bark behind fenced compounds. All your aggressive barking won't bring the corrupt Qarase regime back. Isa ulukau's, we apologize for that. We certainly enjoy listening to all your barks. No one ever pays attention since it will never bring about any change in Fiji's government. We do have the pills that will soothe your sore throats as a result from all the barking. Isa, ni sa moce dau yavu ulukau's.

Keep The Faith said...

To the 2nd Anon and Maope Tivilli: SAVE IT please. Your self-righteous crap about anonymous bloggers/barkers while you yourselves post anonymously/via pseudonym is really the pot calling the kettle black!

The consistency of "barking" from coups of 87 to now IS NOT OUR JOB. Take this up with Shaista Shameem and her crew who are being paid by your tax dollars (we hope!) to be consistent. This time around we hope that we are also educating AGAINST a 4th (or is it now 5th?) coup.

A Referendum? Hell yeah!! bring it on please! We've always loved the numbers game. It's called democracy.

Maope this is the LAST TIME you will be "permitted" to post gutter language. And you come across very strongly as a female as only they will go lower then low - LOL. If you want to vent please take it to loyalfijian's blogspot where because it has fizzled content-wise, might be willing to include your take of the world.

By allowing this posting of yours to go live it will only serve to incense our readers more to resist you and the Ko Man Da's (thanks disco bubu, love that tag) "push". So your "grey matter" rants are therefore polemic.

For the record AGAIN (sheesh how many times do we have to say this? We might try chinese next time) we don't give a Flying Fcuk about SDL. We want our civil liberties back and we will passionately and passively advocate the restoration of it.

And yes we will continue "barking" and both of you WILL be back here lapping our rants all up, every single drop...slurp, slurp, slurp -- pure dog-like characteristics to me!

Keep The Faith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Prof Satendra Nandan's comments @ the Transparency International gathering last week really incensed me because I was probably expecting a lot more from an academic, but then again academics never fail to surprise with all their theorising.

Nandan should have ended his speech by bowing to the military representative (whoever it was that was there) because his speech resembled someone we love to term "masi-polo". And the apologist academic (re: Ratuva) well he's another cattle of fish! I never thought I'd see the day when things became the evil and the lesser evil ... where the hell did that come from???

An illegal take-over is an illegal take-over - FULLSTOP! There is no use rationalising over the little facts and figures because at the very beginning it was illegal. For whatever reason, if a democratically elected Government is forced by the barrel of a gun to leave office, then it is an illegal take-over.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for removing moape tivili and that wanna be full blooded fijian....isa man, au via sotavi rau mada...

Man, talk about blood boiling, I thought Moapes stupidity went extinct with the dinosours...APPARENTLY NOT!!! I wish when we all come out, we will get to know who this moape, From one woman to another....darling, I will slap the right thinking out of your head and into your A$%#... coup happened hia in tavua with the floods and all


Anonymous said...

Isa does anyone know who this Moape Tivili are a marked woman bitch...are you set or what...who said anything about QARASE, lick his cherry!!! Remember the military can only protect you for sooo long, after that your pip's is far go to all your neigbors, remember keep your id sealed moape, THE MILITARY MIGHT HAVE THEIR HUNDREDS, BUT I HAVE COCNUT WIRELESS, and when I do find you and someone should slam your face into the pavement somewhere, realize then that its me, daru ga sota....woman to woman


Anonymous said...

hullo ladies and gentleman. firstly, i would like to say that i find it very interesting reading all of your inputs here. now very quickly - i am a third year law student at USP and at the moment we are studying contitutionalism in the South Pacific region. to be honest everytime we would have tutorials, the only topic we would talk about is the situation here in Fiji. its not that there is nothing alse to discuss but the fact that the whole principles of constitutionalsim and even the Constitution of Fiji have been violated altogether when Vore took over power. Now, there is a certain issue that has baffled us (mainly me) for quite some time which i would like to put across this blog. Now in principle if an illegitimate government wants to be recognised as a legitimate government it has to do two important tasks, firstly, effectively overthrow the existing government and if possible, abrogate the existing constitution. While Vore has done the former quite well, has still has to do the latter and this has still not happend. My question is, can we say that while Vore's main agenda in overthrowing Qarase's Government was to combat corruption while keeping the Constitution intact knowing full well that his actions are illegal or does he intend to have the Constitution removed in the near future? All replys would be greatly appreciated..Vinaka.

storm said...

I would like to let all this people know that we do not want this back stabbing and crap.
We need to move forward and build a better Fiji.
I belive people have been hurt in some sense but lets look at it collectively as a nation.

Anonymous said...

Great analysis and critiques ... whatever you do please do not follow resistfrankscoup, because that blogspot is filled with so many inaccurate information and personal/character assassination. I say you are doing very well just keeping the drift of this blog ... Great work!

Anonymous said...

How naive can one get?.... don't you guys have any consceience fighting for a man who was clearly serving his own hands while his country "burnt". He approved huge payrises when the opposite of that was best for economic sustainability of the country on the eve of the elections just to get pack into power. He usurped the right of the legitimate regime in 2001 by refusing to succumb to the court's ruling. If you guys are such staunch fighters for democracy (to protect ur credibility) evaluate very impartially whether Laisenia Qarase also respects democracy that much... or is it that when it serves his purpose, he uses it. Please think carefully about this... and whether it's worth all the sweat fighting for a selfish power hungry man who made everyone sacrificial lamb coz of his lust for power. Carefully analyse the steps he took while in power (bloated cabinet at a time when economy was in doldrums, undermined the rule of law... attempted to free people condemned by the court as traitors, removed abel ppl like Peter Ridgeway bcoz they were doing their work "too" properly, the list goes on... So pls think of poor Fiji... she can not afford to be raped continually by selfish, greedy, powerhungry ppl.