FW (GLW): Fiji mutiny and `regional instability'

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Nov 5 06:56:31 MST 2000

The following article is the Editorial in the latest issue of Green Left
Weekly (http://www.greenleft.org.au):

Fiji mutiny and `regional instability'

The deadly November 2 firefight between rival factions of the Fiji armed
forces has again revealed the true source of “regional instability”, and
the greatest threat to human rights and democracy, in the South Pacific:
the privileged neo-colonial capitalist elites that have been assiduously
cultivated over many decades by the region's most significant resident
imperialist power, Australia.

Members of the Fiji army's elite Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) unit
seized the armed forces' national headquarters, the Queen Victoria Barracks
in Suva. Leading the 40 or so commandos were several soldiers who had only
just been released from detention following their participation in George
Speight's terrorist coup against the elected Fiji Labour Party (FLP)-led
government of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

The goal of the attackers was to topple the commander of the Fiji military
forces, Commodore Frank Bainimarama — the power behind “interim” Prime
Minister Laisenia Qarase's throne — and replace him with someone more
sympathetic to Speight's followers. At least eight people were killed when
soldiers loyal to Bainimarama retook the barracks.

Despite Bainimarama's arrest of hundreds of Speight supporters on July
26-27, the Fiji armed forces and the military-backed “interim” government
has remained riddled with Speight sympathisers.

While unhappy with the way Speight dislodged Fiji's elected multiracial
government (and fearful that Speight's blatantly anti-Indian Fijian
policies could ignite a race war that would frighten away Western
investors), Bainimarama completed the coup by first taking power and then
appointing the “interim” government.

The election of the liberal-reformist FLP in 1999 was seen by Fiji's
aristocratic elite as a threat to its carefully constructed political and
ideological monopoly. It quickly moved to crush any potential political
movement based on united action by Fiji's workers, Melanesian Fijians and
Indian Fijians.

The military-backed Qarase government is now drafting a constitution that
will again discriminate against Indian Fijians (the scrapping of the 1997
constitution was one of the first of Speight's demands agreed to by the
military). Elections based on this constitution will not take place until

Since July, Bainimarama has offered an olive branch to Speight's military
supporters — dropping treason charges against CRW members and releasing
them and delaying serious investigations into those behind the coup — in
the hope of mending the fractured military. The murderous attempted putsch
was their answer. More violent conflict can be expected as Bainimarama will
have little choice but to purge the military and government of Speight's
fanatical followers.

Among those mentioned as Speight supporters are High Court Chief Justice
Timoci Tuivaga, vice-president Jope Senioli, cabinet ministers Apisai Tora
and Inoke Kabuabola, police chief Isikai Savua and former chief military
spokesperson during the May coup Lieutenant-Colonel Filipino Tarakinikini.
The renegades hoped to install Tarakinikini as head of the military.

(A telling example of the Australian ruling class's commitment to democracy
in Fiji was the attendance by Tarakinikini at a Gold Coast meeting of the
Fiji Australia Business Council in late October to talk up investment
prospects in post-coup Fiji. Tarakinikini hobnobbed with corporate chiefs
of some of Australia's largest companies, such as ANZ and Westpac.)

The outbreak of fighting within the Fijian army has exposed the criminal
folly of the Australian government's refusal to act on the calls of Fiji's
deposed multiracial government, and the trade union and pro-democracy
movements, for serious action to restore democracy in Fiji.

Instead of imposing effective sanctions, as was demanded by Fiji's
democracy movement, Canberra instead went along with the fiction that the
Bainimarama wing of the military is committed to the restoration of
democracy and is the best bet for the restoration of “stability”.

The Australian government immediately dropped calls for the democratically
elected Fiji Labour Party-led government to be reinstated, and merely urged
an eventual return to “constitutional government”.

The Australian government tacitly accepted the FLP's overthrow because it
believes that the Melanesian Fijian chiefly elite, backed by the Fiji
military, best defends Australian imperialism's considerable economic and
political interests in Fiji.

It is now obvious that the greatest threat to “stability” and democracy in
Fiji comes from the very forces Canberra has sought to protect — the
military and the chiefly elite.

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