What are your thoughts dear bloggers, on the following, an interesting perspective by a very senior, not to mention highly decorated ex-military officer – Jone Baledrokadroka, a man who was kicked out unceremoniously, by the Pig and subsequently charged in a much publicised, controversial case of alleged conspiracy charges to assassinate the Pig, Saumatua, that Anglican Archbishop’s son whose name escapes me right now, Chodo Snr and Princess Fiona (iAG).
“Is there a design for the political future of our nation hidden in the coup culture? Can the 2006 coup finally rid us of the anachronism of 19 century race-based politics and paradoxically launch us into a golden age of 21st century liberal democracy?
Controversial as it may seem given international condemnation and the downturn in economic growth, I draw on M.Janowitz (1971:306) who wrote: “The intervention of the military in domestic politics is the norm; persistent patterns of civil supremacy are the deviant cases that require special exploration”.
As such in trying to make sense of the coup culture besetting our nation and address the issue from a longer term perspective, I will digress. In Thailand, coups, not elections, have become the norm for change of political leadership and government (Bunbongkarn 1987 a: 42-52). Since 1932, political change has evolved in a cyclical pattern starting with a coup, followed by an election and a short period of open politics, before a crisis leading to another coup. In most cases, the coups provide a channel for the Royal Thai Army to exert influence on the political situation, and have little to do with political transformation. For Fiji this trend was alluded to by Stephanie Lawson in her, ‘The Military Versus Democracy in Fiji: Problems for Contemporary Political Development’ study of the 1987 and 2000 coups, quote, “For whatever happens in the arena of civil politics, the military has established itself in a guardian role. In the terms expressed by Luckham (1971:27), the military now has a strong ideological disposition towards regarding itself as the ‘Platonic guardian’ of the national interest. And the praetorian character of this development does indeed suggest that the military in Fiji has become a homus politicus in its own right.”
Hence as in the case of the RFMF’s 2006 coup, with the proposed charter and the realigning of its ‘guardianship’ role to include ‘Human Security’, it seems the RFMF has permanent intentions of ‘mission creeping’ into the political affairs of the State. Therefore, if one is to look at Fiji’s political development since, through Morris Janowitz’s said observation, then the military’s political intervention in 1987, 2000 and 2006 may be argued as the norm. If somewhat an irony in our developing political design for liberal democracy and good governance. What triggered the military’s cyclic involvement in local politics, was it for purely personal ambition, as some would claim – messianic or otherwise? In the aftermath of the coups of 1987 and 2000, the triumph of ethno-national politics as the IG would label the SVT and later SDL parties’ rule, has meant the victory of traditionally rural groups over more urbanised ones, which possess just those skills desirable in an advanced industrial economy. For this has meant the migration abroad of the mainly Indian population, victims of such racial politics. Hence it is argued that the competition for political homogeneity is indeed part of the developmental process for mature nationhood. Thus in the case of Fiji with its small immature political culture this process throws up inter – ethnic and intra – ethnic rivalries which inevitably involves the military.
As in post Second World War and post cold war Europe, ethnonationalism was the precursor for liberal democratic states as it meant the large-scale desegregation of ethnic populations. Further still it defined the modern nations as state entities around an ethnic majority with common borders. Therefore for Fiji, the intervening periods of civilian rule between 1987 to 2000 and 2000 to 2006, need to be analysed in light of the politics of race and the Fijians interpretation of history and conflict dominance. This in some way helps us to explain our cyclic coup culture. Hence as I’ve suggested in finding a way forward post 2006 coup, John Davis’s paper ‘Ethnic Competition and The Forging of the Nation State in Fiji’ (2005) requires deeper exploration. In his paper, Davis postulates that there is an ongoing racial ‘cold war’ for the soul of the nation brought about by an anachronistic race based politics. For argubly in the past it is during post coup civilian rule in Fiji that the political policies and performances issues that give cause to a coup are set in motion.
With the population racial balance now in favour of the indigenous Fijians (57%), what will be the legacy of the 2006 coup and its charter designs for the future? What is certain is that for the Fijians now well in the majority, military intervention has cautioned and moderated ethnonationalistic politics towards what the IG proclaims – a more liberal democracy. To take the argument to its logical conclusion military intervention has “guided” the nation from ethnonational implosion and heralded in an explosion of liberal democracy if somewhat by “guided” charter means, even though the jury is still out.
However, for true liberal democracy to take root and grow, (if this is the real intent and coup end state) what is important now is for the military to overcome the “legitimacy dilemma” it has fallen trap to, the bane of all coups and start to plot an exit strategy. For whether true liberal democracy will be institutionalised and civilian control of the military consolidated in the short run is another question.
Jone Baledrokadroka, 7 Oct 2008, Fiji Times