Should the Fijian Military Overthrow The Govt?

The success of the Thai coup seems to have emboldened Commodore Bainimarama in his quest to get Qarase's govt to back down on their contentious legislation to pardon George Speight and his fellow conspiracists of the 2000 coup plot.

First, a brief backdrop of this piece. Fiji's Indian minority is sizeable, exceeding 40% of the population and they largely control the economy. They also pretty much ran the nation until Sitiveni Rabuka initiated a coup in 1988 to address the gross imbalance of power and wealth between the indigenous and Indian communities. Since then the constitution has been re-written to better reflect Fijian society and things largely went back to normal. But in 2000 Speight attempted a coup to overthrow the Choudary govt (Indian PM). At the end of the day he lost but it also spelt the end of 'democracy' (as tenuous as it is in Fiji) in that it is now clear only an indigenous Fijian can ever be PM (sounding more and more like Malaysia...).

Now Bainimarama says the govt is racist (they have another land proposal that favours the indigenous community) and pardoning Speight is unacceptable to the military. Do they have the right to do so?

The government is almost certainly racist (Malaysian style) and pardoning Speight spells of political influence. But the Qarase govt also won the election; it is not illegitimate, and unlike Thailand there's little support among the masses for a coup. Even the Indian community don't want one as it will heavily affect the tourist trade.

Parliamentary democracy in Fiji is hardly representative of the people, just as it is in most countries-once the election is over the people are forgotten, but is even that better than a benevolent military dictatorship? Musharraf used governmental incompetence to take over power and never left; now the Thai military holds power in Bangkok. Are Thais and Pakistanis better off with this? I'd argue so but only because the govts prior to the coups were dysfunctional. There is now better governance in these 2 countries, at least for now anyway. But does that make it right?

I'd argue the credibility of benevolent military dictatorships is ebbing away. They always promise to temporarily stay in power but rarely give it up completely. In this case, they are no better off then the corrupt politicians they overthrew. What these societies need are proper political institutions that are stronger than the political opportunists who take advantage of the people. The people don't need the military thinking they know better than the rest, even when the govt is dysfunctional or derelict. In any case, where in Pakistan are there now stronger political institutions? I certainly don't see it but I see an impotent parliament beholden to Musharraf. Benevolent maybe, but democratic never. At least there's always some hope for democratic change when the corrupt politicians are in power...

The Fiji military need to stay in their barracks, but the whole episode has weakened Qarase. Australia and the council of chiefs have also had their say. Speight will certainly not get his pardon now. Is that compromise enough for the people's benefit? It seems everyone but the people have a say in this matter.


  1. Anonymous2:31 pm

    What these countries need is political maturity among the masses. Foreigners were warning the Thais ages ago that this Thaksin fellow was no good, but they seemed oblivious to the dangers of a one-party state. It seems that countries can't read about the experiences of other countries and learn from them. Most countries need to learn democracy and the need for independent institutions the hard way.


  2. you're a harsh man...
    but when things are good, people try and believe it will always be good (hence the votes for little johnny and his promise to keep interest rates low). I think what's more dangerous than your statement is that never mind other country's experiences, people don't seem to learn from their own country's experience.

    Easy answers to problems (it's the other tribe, it's the americans, the muslim's...) seem to satisfy the average joe, time and again...

    'You can fool all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time but you can't fool all the people all of the time' is too optimistic a saying, I fear.