UN told by Rudd Government to stop hiring Fijian soldiers

Mark Dodd | April 17, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THE federal Government has told the UN it wants a halt on any new hiring of Fijian soldiers serving as peacekeepers on blue-beret missions around the world.

Putting into effect tough new measures threatened against Fiji’s military rulers, Canberra yesterday confirmed it had sought assurances from the UN that it would cease any new hiring of Fijian peacekeepers.

On Wednesday, New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully called on the UN to halt its practice of hiring Fijian peacekeepers because “it sustains the interim regime both in terms of credibility and cash”.

It’s a view backed by the Rudd Government in Canberra.

“The Australian Government remains opposed to any involvement by the Fiji military in any new UN peacekeeping operations,” said a senior official from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who asked to remain anonymous.

“The involvement of the Fiji military in existing UN peacekeeping operations is a matter for the UN. We (Australia) have made it clear to the UN that the Government would oppose the involvement by the Fiji military in any new UN peacekeeping operations.”

There are at present 282 Fijians serving on peacekeeping missions, including 51 police, eight military observers and 223 soldiers.

Fijians are highly regarded peacekeepers, gaining high praise from Australian and New Zealand army commanders during their deployment to East Timor after the bloody 1999 independence vote.

Their service is a valuable source of remittance funds, in addition to boosting the profile of the Pacific island nation.

In New York yesterday, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the world body was aware of Australian and New Zealand concerns about the hiring of Fijian blue berets and the matter was being considered.

“In terms of what that means for peacekeeping, our position holds that we will evaluate any further contributions on a case-by-case basis. And so we stand on that,” he said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has expressed her deep concern about the recent sacking of the Fiji judiciary and heavy media restrictions.

The long-term damage from undermining such fundamental institutions as the judiciary and the media cannot be underestimated, she said.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, offered qualified support for the Government’s request, warning that if it were implemented, it could hurt ordinary Fijians.

“The Coalition would support a review by the United Nations as to whether it is appropriate for it to continue to accept Fijian troops for peacekeeping operations, as the current regime in Fiji stands to gain substantial financial benefits from these operations,” Ms Bishop told The Australian last night.

Pressure mounted among South Pacific nations yesterday to suspend Fiji from a

key regional group because of the military regime’s latest crackdown.

The head of the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum, Toke Tufukia Talagi, said Fiji should be suspended immediately; New Zealand backed the idea.

9 Responses to “UN told by Rudd Government to stop hiring Fijian soldiers”

  1. Kim Says:

    One more pillar is about to be removed in the IG’s house. More will obviously follow. Now that the major peace keeping contributor Pakistan is out of the woods and has restored democracy, it will be very difficult for the UN to resist such calls. Being seen as supporting a big, ugly monster is one thing, being seen as supporting an even uglier, small and insignificant monster is not in the UN’s best practice guidelines…..

  2. Budhau Says:

    These sanctions etc, how would it make things better for the people of Fiji.
    UN, NZ and Australia will not decide our destiny – the people of Fiji will.
    What A/NZ would like to see is that our economy goes down so far that this regime is unable to manage, and someone in the military would take out this regime.

    Well, these guys ain’t going down without a fight. If NZ thinks that a fight is what we need, well I hope they will sending in the peacekeeping force and be ready to take our refugees.

    Unlike most of the people of Fiji, I do not think that Australia and New Zealand are not assuming there will be a peaceful settlement – they are setting the stage for take down. Rather than helping all the people of Fiji to find ways out of the current crisis, what they did was threatened Bainimarama first and than went onto plan B – make life so difficult for the people that they will revolt.

    Imposing such sanctions in an effort to force a return to democracy is not going to work – When our economy gets worse who are these countries punishing – the weakest elements in out society.

    Fiji’s economy is already screwed – the coup, the sanctions, the global downturn, the recent floods, tourist stopped coming and Qarase had our economy pretty much screwed up even before the coup. It will take us years to get out of this shit and these sanctions will only make it worse.

    We have seen that in other parts of the world, sanctions did not work against Saddam, US sanctions did not work against Cuba. In Fiji, if things get bad, and the Chinese come in to help, than you can kiss the 2014 election good-bye also.

    If Bainimarama is going down – he will take us down with him.

  3. Relax Man Says:

    Is that possible?? not easy as it seems, it has to go through the security again but most likely China will vet this given its consistant support to the IG throughout and upcoming military aid. But what does withdrawing our troops mean, apart from the insignificant factor back home we will lose out big time time in the international arena, so its a double edge sword and in the end the country as a whole loses out. So I’d say leave our troops out there because they’re doing everyone here who really belongs here proud, black, white and yellow or whatever race you are. God bless Fiji.

  4. Meri G Says:

    The comment “UN, NZ, Aust will not decide our destiny…the people of Fiji will” is questionable. Right at this very moment it is not the people that is deciding their destiny but the arrogant military dictator Bainimarama. The only way the people of Fiji could have a say in their destiny is through a democratically elected government that promotes freedom of speech, freedom of expressions and the rule of Law. The international community may not decide Fiji’s destiny but they have a huge influence and great impact on Fiji’s life line….economy!! So do not underestimate what NZ, Aust and UN can do. Unfortunately, sanction will only accelerate the downward spiralling of Fiji’s economy but it is Bainimarama who is now making the decision on behalf of the people of Fiji. Responsibility lies squarely on his shoulders….and if he has any sense of fair play and decency, he would have graciously stepped down and have a caretaker PM take over. The people of Fiji never ever were given a choice, not with the guns firmly pointed at them.

  5. Budhau Says:

    If Fiji is kicked out of the UN program, the military would not be able to keep all these soldiers on its payroll. With the economy the way it is many of these “former” soldiers will not have jobs. With no jobs, we will have some real pissed off former soldiers who know how to shoot. Who are they going to blame – Bainimarama.
    Isn’t that what NZ wants, people to rise up against this regime – and this would create that perfect environment.

    What is Bainimarama supposed to do to deal with this situation – Should he get bigger guns, and make sure that he comes down hard on anyone that stands up against the regime. Anyone in Bainimarama’s position has to prepare for a violent uprisings against the RFMF.

    NZ and everyone else knows that instability will bring down this regime – so how about blowing up some bridges, power plants, dams etc. That will do the trick – and now you will have the people who can do the job, those unemployed soldiers.

    We have had how many coups in the last 20 years – and the people have figured out a way of getting out of this without a shooting war. This time around, it is looking like the international community is going to push us into one.

    Now, we are on this freedom of expression bandwagon – look at the history of the RFMF since the 2006 coup – they could have done this right away – but we had freedom of speech after the coup – sure both sides were playing their game – the media as to what they can get away with and the military with its intimidation. However, I think that there was an agreement with major media outlets, that the RFMF would continue to respect press freedoms and they did.
    After the abrogation of the constitution the military expected a backlash and accordingly prepared for it. Now it depends which way we go from here, we can be back with the type of press we had post 2006 coup, or we can have strict censorship. The people of Fiji will decide, not NZ.

    If you look at the military’s actions post 2006 coup – they felt that there was a need to justify the coup – whether it was cleaning up corruption, the need for a more fair and just electoral system etc. Whether you agree or disagree with those reasons, at least the military realized that there was a need to justify their position – now, it looks like they have been pushed in a position where they do not have to justify anything – they will do what they want to do.

    So the issue is ‘how do we get out of this mess’. If you believe that Bainimarama’s plans are to remain the PM for life and that we will be living under a police state for ever – than, yes, we should go all out and bring down this regime, whatever it take. So what if we have to sacrifice some lives for it.

    However, if the abrogation means that for Bainimarama it would be easier to do that electoral reform that they have been talking about and the election may come in 2011 or 2012 instead of 2009/10 than I think these sanctions and otuside pressures are counter productive.

    The 2014 date for the election is negotiating thing for Frank – he will start at 2014 and negotiate down depending on what he gets in exchange.

    As it looks now, Bainimarama, if he fails and our economy gets worse, he will blame it all on the International community for its sanctions – the sugar industry failed because of the EU, the unemployment is high because of the sanctions and the UN peacekeeping job losses. He will claim that it was not his fault.

    ..and if these guys fail, we might end up with a regime that is even worse than this.

    ..and if Bainimarama still survives – the international community would have pushed Bainimarama further into isolation and he may not see a need to do what these countries have been demanding. The only way than for Frank is to form even closer alliance with China – to keep the economy going and to get military aid that will enable him to rule.

    If that happens, this would have blown right in NZ’s face…exactly what they did not want.

    The people of Fiji are the ones who will decided – bring down this regime, whatever it takes, or do we have better alternatives.

    After 1987 we got that 1990 constitution that sucked. Rabuka said wait seven years before a review and we got the 1997 constitution that was somewhat better. I don’t see anything wrong with getting a 2012 constitution that we can live with – if the alternative to that means violence. If these foreign countries keep Fank engaged, we may get a better constitution – earlier.

  6. Digger09 Says:

    If the UN pulls Fiji peacekeepers out then who the hell is going to do the job for them? Who’s going to guard the UN HQ in Bagdhad? Fijian soldiers are cheap labour for the UN – they save a lot of money by using Fijian soldiers – all the UN pays is about $100 Fijian dollars a day per soldier, it started off as $65 in 2004…and now with the 20% devaluation of the dollar….I think it can’t get any cheaper for the UN!

  7. Cama Says:

    We must be able to differentiate to our children what is lawful and what is unlawful and teach them to be a law abiding citizen.

    For peace keeping duties, I support the cancellation and Fiji must learn to abide by the law. It will be just a short struggle for our citizen but for a better future.

  8. Meri G Says:

    If the UN pulls out all Fijian soldiers on blue beret missions and ceases future hiring of Fijians soldiers it will not have any impact what so ever to the security of the UN HQ in Bagdhad. We make up such a miniscule portion of the total peace keeping soldiers available to the UN for deployment to various peacekeeping missions. India, Indonesia, and numerous other third world and developing countries have soldiers that are just as low cost and well trained to pick up where Fijians are no longer needed. And how can these Fijian soldiers keep wearing the blue beret which signifies the true ideals of peacemakers when the Government they represent is a military dictatorship bent on supressing and toturing anyone that dare to question. A dictatorship that has ripped up the legal framework that protects human rights and the rule of law. I do feel sorry for the innocent fijian people who unfortunately will suffer as a consequence, but it has come to the point where something like this has to be done. Bainimarama has shown himself to be a thug and it’s time Fiji got itself out of his clutches and cleanse itself of all corrupt leaders. We need a new and fresh start!!

  9. Budhau Says:

    Cama wrote, “We must be able to differentiate to our children what is lawful and what is unlawful and teach them to be a law abiding citizen.”

    Hey Cama, we have had kids growing up in Fiji for 20 or so years who believe that it is OK to take law in your hands when the right guy does not get elected Prime Minister. Now you want to teach them something else. Good luck. BTW – Don’t teach your children hate – that might go a long ways towards solving our problems.

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