Playing the blame game..

SV says vinaka vakalevu to Mr. Kamal Iyer for his thought-provoking opinion piece that helps put into perspective, the committments and achievements of our past leaders; leaders who may not have been perfect but were considered giants of their time; who spearheaded the broad transformations neccesary, with the fervent hope that we, as a people, would continue to responsibly build on those dreams and aspirations for a more just, equitable and prosperous society. 

Read on….


“Blame It On The Rain – a hit song by pop star Milli Vanilli debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 7, 1989 on the 100th spot and rose to be the Number 1 ranked song on November 25, 1989.

Perhaps interim Prime Minister and army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama wanted to emulate the success of Milli Vanilli when he blamed the 10 Parliaments and the leaders since Independence in 1970 for all the ills currently plaguing Fiji when he launched the draft People’s Charter public outreach and consultation campaign at the Suva Centre on Monday, August 25, 2008.

Unfortunately, Commodore Bainimarama’s blame game rhetoric was a flop – just like some Bollywood movies produced on mega budgets that are huge flops on the box office.

In reality, Commodore Bainimarama sounded exactly like his favourite “Robin Hood” – former interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry who has blamed anything and everything under the sun except himself for his inherent failure to deliver the goods when it matters.

The Chaudhry syndrome is precisely what Commodore Bainimarama was parroting on Monday evening. He blamed the past 10 Parliaments of having a “sad and dismal record on nation building”. He blamed the past leaders for “dividing us as a people through their rhetoric in Parliament and outside and exploiting the race-based electoral systems for narrow sectarian interests.

Commodore Bainimarama effectively meant that Ambalal Dahyabhai Patel committed a cardinal sin by starting the struggle for independence that led to the end of 96 years of Colonial rule.

Fiji has had five legitimate Chief Ministers or Prime Ministers. They were Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, who was first appointed as Chief Minister in September 1967, PM from 1970 to April 1987, interim PM from December 1987 to June 2 1992 and Fiji’s second President from December 1993 to May 29, 2000 when he was removed from power by Commodore Bainimarama for reasons known to him.

Dr Timoci Bavadra was PM for only five weeks from April to May 14, 1987 until the NFP/Labour Coalition Government was toppled by a military coup executed by Sitiveni Rabuka. Mr Rabuka became the elected PM in June 1992 (thanks to Mr Chaudhry) and remained in office until May 1999. MP Chaudhry, who vanquished Mr Rabuka at the polls then became Fiji’s first Indian PM but was removed from power on May 19, 2000 in a coup carried out by George Speight with the help of CRW soldiers from the army. He was succeeded by Laisenia Qarase as interim PM (appointed by Bainimarama) and elected as PM in September 2001 and remained in office until December 5, 2006 when his anointer Commodore Bainimarama removed his SDL/FLP Multi-Party Government by executing the fourth military coup. A man of chiefly authority and embodiment of wisdom Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau was an able ally of Ratu Mara until his death in 1973. Ratu Sir George Cakobau became the first local Governor-General of Fiji succeeding Sir Robert Foster until he retired in 1983. Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau was the Deputy PM and became Fiji’s last Governor-General in 1983 until 1987 when the coup happened. He then became Fiji’s first President until he succumbed to serious illness in December 1993.

The Parliaments that Commodore Bainimarama has treated with contempt also had highly capable and credible Opposition leaders. AD Patel became Opposition Leader in 1967 when Ratu Mara became Chief Minister but his term was cut short by his death on 1st October 1969. Mr Patel also served as a Legislative Council Member from 1944 to 1947 and then from 1963 until his death. He was succeeded by Siddiq Koya who remained Opposition Leader until 1977 and served another term from 1984 to 1986. Mr Koya was also a Member of the Legislative Council from 1963 until Independence. Harish Sharma boasts the second longest record of Parliamentary service. He became an MP in 1972 and remained in the Lower House until May 14, 1987. He served another five years from 1994 to 1999 until he retired from politics. He was a Senator from 1970 to 1972, Opposition Leader in 1986 and Deputy PM for five weeks in 1987. Jai Ram Reddy is Fiji’s longest serving Opposition Leader; from 1977 to 1984 and 1992 to May 1999. He was a Senator from 1972 to 1977.

Commodore Bainimarama should know that AD Patel is credited with leading Fiji towards Independence and constitutional rule. He spearheaded the formation of or planted the ideas to establish several institutions and legislation like Housing Authority, University of the South Pacific, Denning Award for cane farmers and ALTO as the first legislation giving security of tenure to cane farmers. AD Patel led the formation of FNPF which is the lifeline of the several thousand workers to educate their children, enjoy their retirement, build their homes, financial source of support for the families in the current state of economic stagnation and the institution in which more than $20,000 was deposited into Commodore Bainimarama’s account for his social security after his payout of more than $184,000 for 698 days of accumulated leave.

Ratu Mara and SM Koya cooperated to give Fiji many achievements and oversaw national developments. ALTA for secure land leases was achieved. Mr Koya negotiated public holidays for Deepawali and Prophet Muhammad’s Birthday. During their term in Parliament Fiji became a member of the United Nations and Lome Protocol was negotiated to give Fiji preferred access and prices for sugar. Ratu Mara also founded the local pine industry known as Fiji’s green gold. Internationally, his actions led to the formation of the South Pacific Commission, now known as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and played a key part in negotiations leading to the signing of the UN’s International Law of the Sea Convention. All major national infrastructure developments like Monasavu Hydro Scheme and the national Queens Highway were constructed in Ratu Mara and Ratu Sir Penaia’s era.

If these leaders were failed national leaders then why are Ratu Sir Penaia’s son Ratu Epeli Ganilau and Ratu Mara’s son Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara trusted allies of Commodore Bainimarama in the interim regime and the army respectively?

Mr Rabuka may have carried out the coup but he reformed from a coup maker to a national leader and cooperated with Reddy to give Fiji an internationally acclaimed 1997 Constitution – a Constitution that Commodore Bainimarama, Mr Chaudhry and the NCBBF’s motley crew are ridiculing with their warped logic and convoluted theories.

The problem with Commodore Bainimarama is that may be he hasn’t read debates of both the Legislative Council and Parliament from 1970 to 1999. So he is unable to understand just like his “Robin Hood” that the leaders he blamed always put national interest before self-enrichment and therefore have and are being recognised internationally for their vision and vast reservoirs of goodwill and wisdom. They were as I said on August 2, giants of their time in ability, understanding and perception of the problems facing Fiji. They were not pygmies.

National leadership and statesmanship are not like a bag of potatoes where one rotten potato makes the whole bag stink. Therefore, Commodore Bainimarama should not paint with his blame brush every Fiji national leader or statesman who has been at the helm of leadership at various stages of our nation’s history just because of one or two rotten and stinking leaders”. 

(Saturday 30Aug08 edition, Fiji Times)



12 Responses to “Playing the blame game..”

  1. painter Says:

    This is an excellent read for everyone. I thank Mr. Iyer for his trouble in painstakingly spelling out the obvious to the deluded Dictator, wacky Frank.

    The article also serves as a useful reminder for people not to be easily swayed by ‘false prophets’, but to search for the ‘truth’ before making independent judgments of those who have been at and are presently at the pinnacle of political power, and pick out the genuine leaders, those who have demonstrated (& practiced) a selfless commitment in promoting national interests and in doing so, have provided us a solid foundation upon which we are expected to continue building on.

    Keep ’em coming Iyer, I like the beat of your drums!!

  2. pestcatcher Says:

    VICTOR LAL took a completely different approach to the dictactor’s speech in the Fiji SUN of the same day, warning us that the dictator was planning to move into Government House:

    People’s Charter ignores the Presidency for Fiji’s “sad and dismal record” and coup culture


    The interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, or more precisely, his shadowy advisers, has once again blamed the raced based electoral system for the “mess” in the country. While launching the draft People’s Charter, Bainimarama denounced the “sad and dismal record” of every parliament since independence. He said the past parliaments had exploited the race based electoral system for narrow sectarian interests.
    The Commodore could have added that a leader of one of Fiji’s largest political parties, and one of his own recent interim cabinet minister, had become a secret millionaire by exploiting the outcome of the election results under the same race based electoral system.
    But one principal institution that Bainimarama omitted to mention at the launch, and the one which he had effectively relied upon in the 2000 and 2006 coups, is the office of the President, for at the end of the day all roads lead up to the Government House in the event of a coup or a constitutional crisis. The way forward, we are repeatedly told, also rests on the outcome of the President’s Dialogue Forum, with another deposed Prime Minister and secret $2million millionaire Mahendra Chaudhry advising another coup victim PM, Laisenia Qarase, to drop the idea of getting back the pre-coup SDL-FLP government.
    “I have been through three coups, two of them where we were democratically elected and we were never given that power back again. So Mr Qarase should learn from this and drop the idea that he will get his government back,” Chaudhry said.
    He added that Qarase should learn from the past and stop opposing the interim
    Government’s initiative, but instead join the President’s Dialogue Forum so there is a collective view on how to take the nation forward.
    What Chaudhry, like his $2million lie to the people of Fiji, did not tell his supporters in Nasinu recently was why and how the current President Ratu Josefa Iloilo refused to return Chaudhry’s Peoples Coalition Government to power after the 2000 coup? And what role did the President’s office play in encouraging the coup culture in the country?
    Responding to Bainimarama’s attack on past leaders, Qarase said Bainimarama’s comments were derogatory and insulting to the hundreds of men and women who were elected to previous parliaments. He said these leaders served our country loyally and with distinction. “Such distinguished parliamentarians include Ratu Sir George Cakobau, Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau, Ratu Sir Penania Ganilau, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, Mr A.D.Patel, Mr S.M.Koya, Mr Jai Ram Reddy, Mrs Irene Jai Narayan, Ratu Sir Josaia Tavaiqia, Mr Sitiveni Rabuka, and many others,” said Qarase.
    I do not know about the Commodore’s dealings with past politicians but I had personally interacted with Koya, Reddy and Mrs Narayan during their term as politicians, and have charted their contributions to the political and constitutional development of Fiji. But I personally knew the great Fijian leaders, the two Ratu Cakobaus, Ratu Ganilau, and Ratu Mara because my late father was an Alliance Party “apparatchik” who lived and breathed for their political survival until his untimely death in 1984. He, however, did not live to witness, and mercifully so, the role the paramount chiefs, Mara and Ganilau, played in post 1987 coups.
    If I were to reflect and pass judgment on their legacy as politicians, I am sure my late father will churn in his graveyard. I had personally campaigned for Ratu George Cakobau’s election to Parliament in the 1970s before he became the Governor-General of Fiji, but I had never envisaged that one the day I would be called upon to pass judgment on his governorship.
    But the call was foisted upon me when I came up to the University of Oxford for further studies, where I also comparatively analysed the 1977 constitutional crisis in Fiji and the 1975 constitutional crisis in Australia under the watchful academic guidance of one of the world’s leading constitutional and electoral experts, Dr David Butler, with help from Sir Zelman Cowen, the former governor-general of Australia.
    Sir Zelman had replaced Sir John Kerr following the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. From 1982 to 1990, Sir Zelman was Provost of Oriel College, Oxford. After the 1987 coups, Ratu Mara would personally blame Dr Butler for allegedly persuading him to accede to the contents of the 1970 Constitution of independent Fiji, which guaranteed Fijian political power. However, the correspondence between the two men before independence, which Dr Butler made available to me after Ratu Mara’s death, tells a very different story of Fiji’s constitutional road to independence in 1970.
    In March 1977, a constitutional crisis broke out following the general election which gave a narrow electoral victory to the National Federation Party, led by Koya, One significant event marked Ratu Cakobau’s tenure as Governor-General. As the NFP quarrelled among itself, Ratu Cakobau called upon the defeated Prime Minister Ratu Mara to form a minority government, pending fresh elections in September, which saw Ratu Mara’s Alliance Party return to power in a landslide win.
    In a public statement, Ratu Cakobau defended his actions in appointing Ratu Mara as caretaker prime minister. Although Ratu Cakobau’s actions were unquestionably constitutional, they were controversial, for as I noted, based on secret Alliance Party correspondence etc, he was blatantly motivated to protect the privileged position of his fellow paramount chiefs, and most possibly, his own governorship, a pattern discernible in the 1987, 2000 and 2006 coups. I concurred with another of Dr Butler’s constitutional colleague Professor David Murray, who had written: “Even if the action of the Governor-General have produced convention about his power which could be justified in the particular context of Fiji, the way this was achieved did not enhance the credibility of the Fiji’s Constitution.”
    Ratu Penaia Ganilau, who succeeded Ratu Cakobau, was confronted with a far greater constitutional challenge after the 1987 coups. Again, he was concerned with his own political survival, as recalled by the coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka, and which I have commented upon in detail in my book, Fiji – Coups in Paradise. Here are the exchanges between Rabuka and Ratu Ganilau at the Government House.
    Rabuka: “Sir, I have just taken over the Government. I have detained all Dr Bavadra’s team. They have been taken up to camp, where they will be detained until we find suitable accommodation for them.”
    Ratu Ganilau: “What have you done?” Rabuka: “I have suspended the Constitution, or abrogated the Constitution, and that means, Sir, that your appointment as Governor-General now ceases to exist.”
    Ratu Penaia: “You mean that I have no job?”
    Rabuka (now speaking in Fijian): “Yes, Sir, but I would ask that you stay here with full pay an all your privileges and honours that go with your office, until we ask you to come back as President.”
    As we know, Ratu Penaia came back as President, with Ratu Mara as Prime Minister, and the two set out, with the help of other Fijian nationalists and the military, to impose the 1990 Constitution, which reduced Indo-Fijians to second class citizenship until the formulation of the 1997 Constitution. In 2000, George Speight surfaced, and tried to do a copycat Rabuka, and once again, the fate of the nation fell on the new President Ratu Mara. He resisted the coup but capitulated by dismissing the kidnapped Chaudhry government to save his own presidency, only to be finally swept away himself from power, “a coup within a coup”, although he later resigned after a court ruling to save the nation from further trauma and hurt.
    His successor and present incumbent, Ratu Josefa Illoilo, took over Government House, only to find himself accused of perverting constitutional democracy. On 14 March 2001, Ratu Josefa dismissed Chaudhry and proceeded to appoint Ratu Tevita Momedonu, a member of Chaudhry’s ousted government, as Prime Minister for 24 hours to legalize his next move. He then dissolved Parliament on Ratu Tevita’s advice and reappointed Qarase as caretaker Prime Minister. In his analysis of the events, Chaudhry described Ratu Tevita as “a puppet Prime Minister” and the whole appointment for a day was farcical and it made a mockery of the constitution.
    Chaudhry also went on to berate the President himself: “The constitution requires the President to be appointed by the Great Council of Chiefs in consultation with the Prime Minister. In the next questionable move Ratu Josefa Iloilo, placed in office after the coup and who the Appeals Court declared to be in an acting capacity only, convened a meeting of the Great Council of Chiefs, and got himself appointed President.” What all these events clearly meant, he claimed, was that Fiji’s post-coup authorities had no respect for the rule of law.
    Now, Ratu Iloilo is a subject of a new legal challenge to his authority, following the 2006 coup in which Bainimarama ousted the SDL-FLP multi-party cabinet of Qarase, and is now pushing for the acceptance of the People’s Charter to move Fiji forward, and the President’s Office to act as a mediator between the quarrelling parties. The President’s own actions leading up to and after the 2006 coup is being justified by his supporters in terms of “reserve powers” in the Constitution.
    The Fiji Human Rights Commission, in one of its reports justifying the coup, wrote: “When assuming executive authority on December 5, the Commander cited the doctrine of ‘Necessity’ as expressed in the Fiji cases of the State v Chandrika Prasad, Yabaki v The President, and the Pakistani case of Musharaf. In these cases the courts established the parameters within which ‘duty of necessity’ could be invoked by the person de facto or de jure claiming to exercise the ‘reserve’ power of the head of state or sovereign. According to case law and constitutional texts, ‘reserve power’ can only be exercised by the purported or actual sovereign or head of state in order to preserve the life of the state. It is an extra-constitutional and temporary measure. The question of constitutionality or even legality with respect to ‘duty of necessity’ does not arise as the act done is often claimed to be necessary for the survival of the constitution, that is, for the legal foundation of the State itself.”
    The late Sir Vijay Singh, in his submission on behalf of the CCF v the President, had claimed that “the President arrogated to himself a role and powers far beyond that which any Head of State may lawfully claim in a Westminster system of parliamentary democracy”. “Worse still, the President clearly sat in judgement and allowed extraneous matters to determine his course of action,” said Sir Vijay. The Court of Appeal has not been kind to the President’s Office either; and we are waiting to hear what verdict will be pronounced of the President’s role in the 2006 coup.
    But it would be correct to ask why the Commodore and the NCBBF did not begin their journey by examining the role of the presidency, past and present, in the “sad and dismal record” regarding the rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism in Fiji. And whether a new and legitimate government should “reserve” the right to begin impeachment proceedings against the President and all those involved in the 2000 and 2006 coups. The ghost of Pakistani military strongman and former President Pervez Musharraf’s resignation should hang over the presidency and the interim regime. The general resigned after threats of impeachment for indulging in repeated illegalities since seizing power in 1999, the year Mahendra Chaudhry came to power after winning a general election, and prevented by the presidency after the 2000 coup, to lead the country until the next general election then due in 2004.
    It is time for an independent Commission of Inquiry into the link between politics, the people and the presidency in building a better Fiji. The People’s Charter is not the right document to provide the answers. “Something”, to quote Hamlet, “is rotten in the House of Denmark” – the Government House, which rumours have it is being prepared for the arrival of Commodore Frank Bainimarama as its next occupant.

    The views expressed are those of Victor Lal and not those of the Fiji Sun. Mr Lal is the author of Fiji: Coups in Paradise – Race, Politics and Military Intervention. E-mail:

  3. Keep The Faith Says:

    NFP is not wasting any time and saw the opportunity to rigorously launch their election campaign months ago!

    No matter what Ma’chaud says or does now, the NFP has got their every angle covered.

    Now if only some of the credible FLP sorts who don’t have any faith in Ma’chaud anymore jump ship to NFP & then perhaps if they all hook up with some exceptional indigenous fijians/parties (minus the dead weights – you know who you are), we’re well on our way towards political rule that is not racially polarised but has the sole mandate of getting the country out of this quagmire.

  4. Tim Says:

    Where’s Yippe-I-Aye? Isn’t about time he presented himself to the media to spout a little more bullshit? We’ve had a guest appearance from the Shaista – its about Bubba’s turn isn’t it?

  5. newsfiji Says:

    From Victor Lal’s well written piece above, i can gather that all past Governor Generals and Presidents have some how allowed or given leeway to coup makers eg. Rabuka, George Speight & now Bainimarama.

    The only & most obvious conclusion is that they’ve done this to “save themselves” because they have nothing else ie. no wealth, no good retirement fund to keep them living a luxurious lifestyle and most probably debts that are sky high and worst of all NO QARE!

    Therefore, a possible solution and one that i’ll fight for is that a prerequisite of becoming President is that one should be worth a net value of more than FJ$1MILLION…

    Also, a President can also be a commoner! Qori!

    This will ensure that whoever the appointed President is, he/she will not be so DESPERATE TO HOLD ON TO THAT OFFICE.

  6. newsfiji Says:

    Oh and yes, it’s also a fact that this current President always advances his board fees from NLTB year in and year out…


    I’ll bet, the interim forced to wanna be PM, the Eveli’s and the rest of the cabinet is doing the same thing…

  7. yesfiji Says:

    Newfiji. Its all about power and what it does to individuals.Just like what Baini has found out and is refusing to let go.

  8. Katalina Balawanilotu Says:

    Why does Fiji, a country with less than 1 million people, need a President and a Prime Minister ?

    After resuming Parliamentary democracy, this should become a serious consideration to scrap. Not to mention the expansive upkeep of a Presidential Office that exists primarily for ceremonial purposes. Monies that could otherwise fund children’s programs like the Yatu Lau and Kadavu athletics programme to participate in the Coca Cola Games etc. Not to mention satellite to bring them the World Wide Web and puts them on equal footing with kids on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu. Monies that could otherwise go into rebuilding infrastructure for water and electricity in the main land what with its ever increasing population.

    Qori! money well worth spending.

  9. Katalina Balawanilotu Says:

    And do not forget the author of Fiji’s 4 coups.

    Scrap the military if we want to see permanent peace on these shores. And a real chance @ economic progress. Everyone here are intelligent enough to know that with each coup the country is knocked backwards by decades making the military the most expansive institution to keep.

  10. Save the Sheep Says:

    Here here Katalina

  11. Sergey Says:

    To like me this post…

  12. Billy Says:

    Very useful analysis and timely reminder. Sometimes it is just so difficult to keep this up as majority of people in Fiji just do not seem to care how the struggle for power is screwing us all up. Charter is based on such flimsy generalisations, the danger is how people are so easily gullible and fooled. Of even great concern is KI’s article in FT today, on the consent form for the Charter and how it is designed to deceive. Hope SV can also post it soon! And fully support KB above, who needs an army if we are Christians? Scrap the army as they have become a bunch of hooligans, arrogant with guns, with nothing much to do, and a shame to proud soldiers of old, with no shred of professionalism left! Problem is these people haven’t seen real WAR to know what to do!

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