Although the small island nation of Fiji enjoys a parliamentary form of government, its recent history has been rife with military action and army intervention. In its short independent history, Fiji has seen four coups by its army, indicating towards a strong culture of political intervention by military. The recent coup of 2006 shows that Fijian democracy is still undergoing a transition process and owing to its socio-cultural and ethnic diversity, Fiji is yet dependent on frequent army intervention in its governance processes. This article shall look into the aspects of army rule in Fiji and its consequences for Fiji
The Coup of 2006 The coup of 2006 came six years after the May, 2000 Coup when government of then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhary was overthrown by Fiji Nationalists, following which Army was forced to take over the command. Since then Fijian politics was in turmoil and country saw periods of growing tensions between Indian immigrants and Fijian nationalists groups. Fijian army felt that the military supported government, installed after 2000 coup under premiership of Laisenia Qarase, did not meet the national and political objectives for which it was instated.
Therefore Fijian Commander of Army, Josaia Bainimarama, took control of government on 6th December, 2006, blockading roads of Fijian capital, seizing power from police and placing important political leaders under house arrests. Following the coup Army has taken over the government and placed the approximate dates of next general election near March, 2009, giving it an extended run and therefore important role in Fijian social, political and national curriculum.
Present Role of Army in Fiji As stated by Commodore Josaia Bainimarama after the coup, previous governments of Fiji have been incapable in providing corruption free, stable and politically strong willed governments that could put cause of Fiji before their own political interests. In this respect principle objectives of military government are tackling those issues that plagued its relation with democratically elected government.
The first priority among these issues rests with bringing the perpetrators of 2000 coup to justice, a path that Fijian government under Qasar had been reluctant to follow. The army is overseeing easing of tension between ethnic Fijian communities and ex-patriot Indian communities that is responsible for general unrest and political turmoil in Fiji. In contrast to situation in 2000, when coup was followed by widespread public violence, the 2006 coup has been relatively peaceful, allowing Fijian Army to institute regular government controls and check in measures.
Although the coup was denounced by top civilian authorities especially Great Council of Chiefs and Fijian Church, the army government has placed limited strict controls against the public, media and civic bodies in criticizing its actions. Following the international protests over the coup, that saw Fiji being banned from commonwealth of states, the army rule responded with restoring powers of president, but it has retained effective control of government by appointing Bainimarama as interim prime minister in January 2007.
Meanwhile Bainimarama has pronounced his commitment to Fijian constitution and explained that reasons of military take over are rooted in the corrupt and inefficient administration of Qarase government that was politically and economically weakening Fiji, that, in words of Bainimarama, would take back Fiji to primitive ages of nomadic and tribal existence. Indeed, by architecting the coup, Army has put itself under public scan and raised general expectations. While bringing the guilty of 2000 coup is its stated obvious priority, the role of Fijian army would extend beyond that.
Notably it would be required to create a harmonious and trustful atmosphere between immigrant Indian communities and ethnic Fijian groups and nationalists groups. Apart from overcoming this cultural divide, on political levels the army leadership must work to create a conducive state where elections are held peacefully and forthcoming governments are able to complete their allotted terms without the requirement or threat of any military intervention. Further, and perhaps most importantly, the army leadership has also to build trust with International community and restore their shaken confidence in its actions.
Reference Yakabi, A. 2006. Background to 2006 Fiji military Coup. Accessed online on 29. 102. 2007. http://www. nautilus. org/~rmit/forum-reports/0702a-yabaki. html#n2 May, R. J. 2004. The Military and Democracy in Asia Pacific. Accessed online on 29. 102. 2007. http://epress. anu. edu. au/mdap/mobile_devices/index. html Fiji Military Coup is denounced. BBC News. 5 December, 2006. Accessed online on 29. 102. 2007. http://news. bbc. co. uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6210464. stm