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Opinion, Opinion

Another Point Of View: Why And How The People Of Fiji Should Feel Secure?

Another Point Of View: Why And How The People Of Fiji Should Feel Secure?
From left: Republic of Fiji Military Forces chief-of-staff, Colonel Jone Kalouniwai, Mahendra Chaudhry and Sitiveni Rabuka.
July 15
11:00 2017

Section 31(2) of the decreed 2013 Constitution says, “It shall be the overall responsibil­ity of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) to ensure at all time the security, de­fence and wellbeing of Fiji and all Fijians”.

This part of the Constitution has been given as the justification for the recent statement of RFMF’s chief-of-staff, Colonel Jone Kalouni­wai in criticising the prospective 2018 Elections leader of SODELPA, Sitiveni Rabuka alleged dia­logue with the Fiji Peacekeepers Association.

Unpack meaning in constitutional role

We need to unpack the meaning of this Consti­tutional role of the RFMF in terms of the ordi­nary meaning of the word “defence” and “secu­rity” and in the context of the political, economic and social situation we have in Fiji.

The pocket Oxford Dictionary has a number of meanings of “secure” and“security”. Two per­tinent meanings of secure are: (1) feeling free from fear or anxiety (2) protect against danger or threat. Then there are two other relevant mean­ings of “security” (a) the state of being secure (b) protect against danger or threat.


Now let’s look at the meaning of “defense”.

  • Action of defending something against attack
  • military measures or resource for protecting a country
  • fortifications against attack
  • In sport, how the players prevent the other team from scoring.

We need not look in depth at these military meaning of “security” and “defense” in terms of the role of RFMF. This could get us bogged down with military technicalities and jargons that are way too deep for most of us who not have degrees in defense and strategic studies like Colonel Kalouniwai. We will just ask ques­tions about ordinary meanings.

One ordinary meaning of defense that I think is important for consideration first is the sport­ing one of players who prevent another team from scoring.

I like this one because I have often cheered for the RFMF rugby team when they meet the Police team for the yearly Sukuna Bowl.

Making a political analogy, we could say that in 2006 the RFMF team prevented the Soqosoqo Du­avata ni Lewanivanua (SDL) team from scoring (in combination with the Fiji Labor Party) for the rest of their five years’ term. Of course, this made the supporters of these two major politi­cal parties (except for Mahendra Chaudhry who chose to remain on the sideline) very unhappy indeed!

Because they had just found out after fighting each other in the Courts for five years that they could have been a very good team after all that. Too bad the RFMF referee blew the whistle to end the game well before half time.

A decade later

Now over 10 years later, Mr Chaudhry and Mr Rabuka are talking intensively about forming an­other team for the 2018 Election.

And Colonel Kalouniwai, posing as a potential referee from the sideline, feels that if they do not play good rugby or get their support from those who he regards as greedy and undesirable he and his RFMF team could blow the whistle.

But, let us look at the issues a bit more serious­ly: What are the threats in Fiji or from outside of Fiji that the RFMF exists to defend against? Are our neighbours Tonga, Samoa, Tuvalu or Va­nuatu possible threats to Fiji?

Can they invade Fiji? Or say New Zealand and Australia, can the RFMF defend us if they decide to invade?

At one time before 2006, there were Austral­ian and New Zealand warships with some well-trained troops just anchored outside Fiji’s ter­ritorial waters ready to enter to evacuate their citizens in the event of a violent deterioration of the political conflict here.

The RFMF, like during Deepawali, did an ex­ercise of firing flares at midnight, I suppose to warn them off.

Able to fight invasions?

The question is would the RFMF have the capac­ity or deter and armed invasion of Fiji by ANZ troops on an armada of modern battle ships?

How would Rear Admiral Viliame Naupoto’s pa­trol boats fare against them?

So, if the RFMF does not have the capacity to defend Fiji against a real invasion by states that have the real capacities to invade Fiji success­fully, then what enemy does the RFMF exist to deal with?

What real threat or danger to the people of Fiji does the RFMF exist to defend against? Terror­ism? Are there real threats of terrorism in Fiji?

Why is the decision of Sitiveni Rabuka to meet and discuss the grievances (whatever they are) of the Fiji Peacekeepers Association considered a threat to the peace and security of Fiji?

It seems that in the absence of any real armed threat to the people of Fiji, what Colonel Ka­louniwai perceives as threats to the people of Fiji are political expressions of citizens that might be offensive to the Commanders of the RFMF. This is very strange.

We are supposed to be living in a democracy based on the rule of law that protects our free­doms and rights to associate with other citizens who have various interest and concerns.

The statements of Colonel Kalouniwai unfor­tunately has caused feelings of insecurity and anxiety rather than making people feel confident or secure about their future.

Some of his supporters’ outside the RFMF have expressed the expectation that Colonel Ka­louniwai will be making more statements in the months ahead as Fiji approaches the 2018 Elec­tions.

I urge the Commanders of the RFMF to remain silent. Silence is the best policy.

If they have any concerns about threats to the security of Fiji, they should see the Minister of Defence and explain to him.

In a Constitutional democracy that is where the security forces go to express any concerns they have and it is then the responsibility of the elect­ed government to deal with them or to articulate them to the public if the government judges that to be appropriate.

The peace, security and well-being of the people of Fiji depends on how the ordinary people and their political and community leaders conduct their normal day to day relations, and how they observe the laws that guide them.

We need to trust our individual and collective capacities to discuss any problems we have, ask our leaders to find solutions and to make them accountable for their decisions and actions.

That is the way we secure peace and prevent threats and conflicts from getting worse.

Then the RFMF might have a role (when direct­ed by the elected government) to prevent violence and keep the peace until normal life can resume.



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