December 21, 2012

Fiji military insists on post-coup changes remaining after 2014

Updated 20 December 2012, 16:45 AEST

Fiji's military has vowed to ensure that what it sees as the achievements of the 2006 military coup are incorporated in any new constitution.

The Constitution Commission will tomorrow (FRI) hand their final report on a proposed new constitution to the President, Ratu Epeklei Nailatikau.

But the Republic of Fiji Military Forces has it's own ideas on what it should contain.

Land Forces commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, tells Bruce Hill that the army has told the Constitution Commission that it won't allow Fiji to reverse course.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, Land Forces Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces

TIKOITOGA: Most importantly for us is to continue the efforts that we started in 2007. It is to integrate the Fijian society as one, make everybody patriotic to Fiji. There are no discriminatory policies, there are no racial politics being played in Fiji.We would like to be all Fijians, we would like to see the country progress as one democratic society. That is our biggest target and its the biggest challenge that we've had in the last couple of elections, and we want to see that carried through before the next election comes. And it has to be incorporated in the constitution for that to happen. Certainly we'd like to see all the non-democratic government organisations not interfering with government policies or with the governance of the country. Suffice to say there is no other institution other than the government institution or non governmental organisation institutions or any other institutions like the previous Bose Levu Vakaturaga [Great Council of Chiefs] to come into the fore and quite simply to challenge government policies. Likewise, we don't want any preference for any religion, as in the past the Methodist Church of Fiji has had a lot of say in what government, how government is running the policies. Now we want to see all those non-democratic policies leave the political scene and let the governance of the country run by a parliament and a cabinet and no other institution to challenge that policy or to interfere with that process.

HILL: But then a lot of opponents of the coup-installed government would say that interfering in the governance of the country is exactly what the military did in 2006, you overthrew the government in a coup.

TIKOITOGA: Ah, yes. Correct.
But the demographics of Fiji would tell any historian that the ... coups of 1987 was very discriminatory in nature. It was predominantly an i-Taukei or indigenous Fijian led coup, Again in 2000 ... when an Indo-Fijian government came into power it became another i-Taukei military force that went across and took over government. Except for the 2007 where another i-Taukei led group initiated by 2000, and even though it was parliamentary or democratically elected in 2004 to the government it became apparent that they were running discriminatory policies that were only good for the i-Taukei people which demarcated the other nationalities or ethnic groups and also the other religions. So the 2007 or end of 2006, beginning of 2007 military takeover is an attempt by the military to right all the wrongs that were done in the past and now support an integrated society in Fiji. Even though it will be argued that the process was not right, but nobody else could have righted the wrongs that have been done in the past. And we've done all the reforms that's been necessary for a true democracy.

HILL: Should it be the role of the military to have any role in the politics of a society in the first place though? Sure the role of the military is to defend the country and not to get involved in politics.

TIKOITOGA: The role of the military, certainly, is to make sure that the country is ... that we have a country. That's one. And to have a country to need to have an integrated society. You can argue democracy. But you have a discriminatory democracy, you have demarcations between ethnic groups, you have demarcations between religious group, you have all different kinds of non-democratic policies, and people still argue the military has no place. Only the military could have changed. And we're changing it for the better and I think it should be appreciated. I always tell the people here, maybe historians 50 years from today will write that it was actually the military that actually changed the face of democracy in Fiji and made it better.

HILL: Does the RFMF see its role in politics as being extending further into the future or do you eventually see yourselves as returning to barracks and your former role as non-political?

TIKOITOGA: Because we have no made it very plain to the i-Taukei people or the indigenous Fijian leaders that we will not support them in any unnecessary personal agendas or ethnic agendas or political agendas, I think there will be no requirement in the future for any of these groups to instigate the RFMF to do anything other than to protect the government of the day. And that's what we intend to do in the future. We do not want to come back and enter government, even though it was suggested by [Australian foreign minister] Bob Carr when he came across to Fiji on a fact finding mission a couple of years back, he said why don't you have reserved seats in parliament for the RFMF. We don't want that. We'll say no, we want to go back to the barracks, we want to go back to our core role as the RFMF and we want to leave the governance of the country to a proper parliamentary role. And that's what we look forward to.

HILL: And do you think we can get to a situation where there are no more coups in Fiji?

TIKOITOGA: I can tell you we are now in a situation, there will be no more coups in Fiji.

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