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December 31
12:49 2012

Changes since 2006 must be in constitution: RFMF

Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga

By MAIKA BOLATIKI

The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) says achievements and improvements since the 2006 takeover must be incorporated in any new constitution.
There must be no going back to the past, the military has stressed.
And it says the country must be governed by the parliament elected by the people, with no interference in policies by non-democratic institutions.
Land Forces commander, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, says that the military told the Constitution Commission that it won’t allow Fiji to reverse course.
The draft constitution drawn up by Professor Yash Ghai’s Constitution Commission has been presented to President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau. It is supposed to then go to the Constituent Assembly, which will then debate this and decide on a final version.
But what are said to be leaked copies have been circulated, notably through anti-Government blogsites. These “leaked” versions indicate the Constitution Commission has ignored key provisions in a detailed Republic of Fiji Military Forces submission to the Constitution Commission.
These include:
# The military wants to maintain a lean and less costly 46-seat single house parliament elected by the people to govern. Money saved would be put into continuing national development rather than paying for extravagant government structures.
Professor Ghai’s commission instead is said to propose not only a 71-seat parliament but also a Peoples National Assembly including non-government organisations and a revival of the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (Great Council of Chiefs).
The proposed 71-seat parliament would mean Fiji has a far higher percentage of parliamentarians per head than countries like neighbouring New Zealand or comparable Mauritius.
Colonel Tikoitoga explained the military’s position in a lengthy interview on Radio Australia. Excerpts from this Radio Australia broadcast:

ON going forward:

TIKOITOGA: Most importantly for us is to continue the efforts that we started. It is to integrate the Fijian society as one, make everybody patriotic to Fiji. There are no discriminatory policies, there are no racial politics being played in Fiji.
We would like to be all Fijians, we would like to see the country progress as one democratic society. That is our biggest target and it’s the biggest challenge that we’ve had in the last couple of elections, and we want to see that carried through before the next election comes.
And it has to be incorporated in the constitution for that to happen.
Certainly we’d like to see all the non-democratic government organisations not interfering with government policies or with the governance of the country.
Suffice to say there is no other institution … like the previous Bose Levu Vakaturaga to come into fore and quite simply to challenge government policies.
Likewise, we don’t want any preference for any religion, as in the past the Methodist Church of Fiji has had a lot of say in what government, how government is running the policies.
Now we want to see all those non-democratic policies leave the political scene and let the governance of the country be run by a parliament and a cabinet and no other institution to challenge that policy or to interfere with that process.

ON the 2006 takeover:

The 2007, or end of 2006 beginning of 2007 military takeover, is an attempt by the military to right all the wrongs that were done in the past and now support an integrated society in Fiji.
Even though it will be argued that the process was not right, but nobody else could have righted the wrongs that have been done in the past. And we’ve done all the reforms that’s been necessary for a true democracy.

ON the role of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces:

TIKOITOGA: The role of the military, certainly, is to make sure that the country is … that we have a country. That’s one. And to have a country we need to have an integrated society.
You can argue democracy. But you have a discriminatory democracy, you have demarcations between ethnic groups, you have demarcations between religious group, you have all different kinds of non-democratic policies, and people still argue the military has no place.
Only the military could have changed that. And we’re changing it for the better and I think it should be appreciated. I always tell the people here, maybe historians 50 years from today will write that it was actually the military that actually changed the face of democracy in Fiji and made it better.

ON the military’s role internally:

TIKOITOGA: We have made it very plain to the iTaukei people or the indigenous Fijian leaders that we will not support them in any unnecessary personal agendas or ethnic agendas or political agendas, I think there will be no requirement in the future for any of these groups to instigate the RFMF to do anything other than to protect the government of the day.
And that’s what we intend to do in the future. We do not want to come back and enter government, even though it was suggested by [Australian foreign minister] Bob Carr when he came across to Fiji on a fact finding mission a couple of years back, he said why don’t you have reserved seats in parliament for the RFMF?
We don’t want that. We’ll say no, we want to go back to the barracks, we want to go back to our core role as the RFMF and we want to leave the governance of the country to a proper parliamentary role. And that’s what we look forward to.
I can tell you we are now in a situation, there will be no more coups in Fiji.

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Waisale Serevi
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December 2012
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