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Opinion, Opinion

Colonel Jone Kalouniwai: Response to Jone Dakuvula’s Opinion on Defence and Security

Colonel Jone Kalouniwai: Response to Jone Dakuvula’s Opinion on Defence and Security
Colonel Ratu Jone Kalouniwai
July 26
14:03 2017

Jone Dakuvula’s opinion in the Fiji Sun Weekend paper of July 16, 2017 suggesting another point of view of why and how the people of Fiji should feel secure – reminds me of the story of the Stag whose majestic set of antlers was the cause of his immense pride, however he was not the least happy with his slender legs and hoofs. The story of the Stag where after being chased by a lion succeeded in fleeing away only to be caught again after running into a thicket where his antlers were caught in the overhanging branches. The stag before being killed by the lion thought to himself, “How wrong I was to curse my slender legs, which carried me to safety. How wrong I was to take pride in my large antlers, which have become the cause of my doom.”

Mr Dakuvula’s attempt to unpack the meaning of the RFMFs constitutional role and intentionally not look in depth at the meaning of security and defence has made his opinion very biased and selective in trying to misconstrue and intentionally mislead our society of his parochial views of security and defence in Fiji. He deliberately ignores the many facts and issues that indicate how the evolving complexities of the global security environment are having a huge and direct impact on our Nation, its economy, politics, security, social demographics, religion and ethnic make-up and many more.

I find it very patronising and condescending of Mr Dakuvula to ask in one breath “what are the threats in Fiii or from outside of Fiji that the RFMF exist to defend against?”, – and whether the RFMF can defend our country if both New Zealand and Australia decide to invade? How more condescending can one be when he also makes reference to Rabuka in the same opinion paper after it was he who famously coined in 1987 after his first coup that, “the biggest threat is to think that there is no threat”.

I would really like to make the assumption that it slipped the learned mind of Mr Dakuvula in sharing his opinion of security and defence in Fiji. I find it hard to believe that he does not appreciate the fact that our world today is going through very intense and chaotic changes. Changes where the Encyclopedia of World Cultures – ‘A Global Perspective’, identified three sweeping transformations of the Global Cultural Landscape: The increasing wave of refugees towards urbanisation; the breakup of unified societies causing internal political strife and disunity; and the revival of Ethnic Nationalism – making the last grasp of exclusiveness on the very eve of its disappearance.

These sweeping transformations are an indication that the world today is being reshaped by fundamental changes in the nature of risk, political and economic influence, competition and conflict, and the geopolitical balance of power.

It is also an indication that the nature of conflict has changed significantly; moving away from formal confrontations between nation states, but rather to a world today that has become engrossed with far more complex struggles with internal and trans-border conflicts between powers, identities, religions and ideologies.

The question of whether there is a real threat of terrorism in Fiji is quiet absurd to be coming from someone like Mr Dakuvula. The Institute of Economics and Peace indicated that the the world has been becoming more violent over the last seven years. Its 2014 Global Terrorism Index report indicated that the world within a single year had experienced a 61 per cent increase in terrorist attacks. Approximately 17,958 people were killed in terrorist attacks in 2014, and of those deaths 82 per cent occurred in just 5 nations: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria.

Helen Clark during her tenure as Chair for the South Pacific Island Forum said, ‘The problem to be confronted in our region is not so much that terrorists will seek to attack the citizens or institutions of Pacific countries. It is rather that the Pacific might present a tempting target, either for an attack like the one in Bali, or as a base from which terrorist cells might undertake the planning and groundwork for an attack somewhere else’. In other words, good preparation is better than reacting to a lone wolf scenario in the heart of Suva or at our thriving tourist industry. To bring this closer to our shores, on December 15, 2014, a hostage crisis in the Lindt Cafe in Sydney Australia ended up with three deaths including the suspect. In May of this year 2017, Michael Keenan, the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Counter Terrorism said that ‘Australia has never been at greater risk of a terrorist attack than it is today.’ So how does this affect Fiji from a security perspective? Are we to continue in advocating that we are free from all threats of terrorism both externally and domestically? or will we continue to prepare and be more proactive in our awareness?

The first duty of every government is to ensure the security of its country, thus the constitutional mandate of the RFMF of having the ‘overall responsibility to ensure at all times that security, wellbeing and defence of Fiji and all Fijians’.

Mr Dakuvula does ask whether the RFMF has the capacity to defend Fiji. With his definition of defence to the untrained eye as pitting our patrol boats against an armada of modern battle ships, then the answer by the many who do not understand the art of war would unanimously be a straight outright No. With the results in this scenario being disastrous for the RFMF the reality of this happening is rather far-fetched. To the trained and learned in the art, understanding ones limitations, weaknesses and strengths can surely determine a reasonable outcome for the far less inferior over the superior.

But let me try and make this simpler by likening it to the analogy again of rugby where the All Blacks outplays and out strengthens many Pacific Island Teams like Fiji. The results like the last one between Samoa just this year was 78 – Nil and 91 – Nil for Fiji in 2005, both to the indomitable All Blacks. So does this warrant the general public in Fiji to ask why doesn’t the Flying Fijians have the Capacity to defeat the All Blacks; and because it doesn’t, then to what purpose does the Flying Fijians exist? Obviously, the answer would be that world rugby is not just about defeating the All Blacks but the composition of many other national teams at different tiers and levels of international exposure and development where the Flying Fijians can defeat and defend against in lieu of its current and continuos developing capacity.

Like defence and security, we cannot just simply base the relevance and existence of the RFMF on its ability or capacity in defeating or deterring an invasion by fighting a war of attrition in lieu of the adversaries numerical and technological superiority. However todays art of warfare is pursued with a maneuverist approach where the art is not to hit the more superior adversary head-on but rather hit him at his vulnerable points where it  would hurt him the most, using surprise, stealth, intelligence, speed causing shock and awe. The intent is to draw out political backlashes against the adversary where its governments or more importantly their electorates will not be prepared for such impacts. Media plays a significant role where well publicised casualties can change and force public attitudes.

If Mr Dakuvula questions how can we exist if we cannot show our level of capability, then it must be understood that security and the role of defence is not limited to a Waterloo alone but other critical areas such as Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief Management Operations, Peacekeeping, Counter Terrorism, Search and Rescue, Exclusive Economic Zone Patrols, Combined operations and exercises with larger allied armies,  Medical assistance, preparing a Battalion or Company group for conventional contingencies, assisting police, and the list goes on.

So Mr Dakuvula’s opinion does not hold water in this contemporary environment given the many other ways the RFMF can exist to actually influence, shape, deter and defeat and impact its efforts against a far more superior force. The saying that ‘there are a thousand ways of skinning a cat’ certainly illustrates the relevance of the RFMF today and how an inferior force can out maneuver a far more superior force in the evolving nature of warfare today.

Mr Dakuvula further purports to democracy and the rule of law that protects our freedoms and rights necessitating the need for the RFMF to remain silent. Unfortunately, that’s in a fully-fledged democratic country and not really a true picture of what is actually being observed in an underdeveloped and developing country that it is still evolving in its Democratic transitioning process.

Whilst studying at the Defence Services Staff College in India, I did a thesis that attempted to analyse the factors leading to ethnic tensions and conflict in states undergoing democratic transitions and compare their general experience to Fiji. In doing so, my study agreed that the processes of democratisation universally has in the past many decades and today been widely celebrated in liberating the human spirit from the bonds of arbitrariness and oppression.

However, recent global conflicts did expose the complexity and relationships of many deep-rooted conflicts during democracy, lending credibility to the idea that democracy can encourage or even aggravate civil conflicts. The outbreak of genocidal violence in Burundi and Rwanda in 1992-94, the erstwhile-Yugoslav wars of the mid-1990s, the secessionist violence of Russia’s southern rim, and the civil conflicts in Indonesia’s Moluku, Aceh, West Kalimantan and Irian Jaya provinces have been suspiciously linked to the processes of political opening and democratic elections. The second half of the twentieth century witnessed a recurring increase in the number of democracies worldwide combined with a surge in the number and intensity of ethnic rebellions. Many researchers link these two trends, suggesting that democratisation unleashes ethnic tensions and gives rise to ethnic-based rebellion in countries with a wealthy ethnic minority. The most recent was the Arab Spring revolution across the many Arab and Muslim states in the middle east.

Similarly, Fiji’s ethnicity has assumed disturbing dimensions since the late 1980s to date highlighting ethnic conflict and distrust during its ongoing democratic experiments. Marginalisation and agitation have become the most crucial issues vocalised by its ethnic groups breeding suspicion, distrust, heightening ethnic tension and eventually leading to conflict over the sharing and allocation of power and national resources. As such, Fiji’s democratic tradition, which is crucial for development, has not been able to be fully implemented in the background of ethnic conflict. With cries of marginalisation so rife between Fiji’s two largest ethnic groups, its potential for disrupting the drive towards democracy and progress necessitates the need to address the issue squarely. Ethnic conflicts in whatever form need to be resolved in order to allow for democracy to thrive. This is particularly important given that Fiji is presently engaged in another attempt at democracy.

One of the interesting contributing factors found common during my research to ethnic conflicts and tensions in countries undergoing democratic changes was the influence of being shaped by three very powerful forces.  These were identified as the free market economy, democracy and ethnic hatred.

To be very brief, Free Market Economies tended to provide favourable market conditions for ethnic minorities to dominate economically. This was a very obvious issue in 1987 and 2000. In our case the indo Fijian community.

Democracy acts on the opposite spectrum increasing political power for an indigenous majority. In our case the iTaukei’s who were constantly used and hoodwinked to believe that they lacked social and economic equal opportunities.

The third one was ethnic hatred where opportunist politicians seeking the vote of the majority uses ethno-nationalism to pit a frustrated indigenous majority in the iTaukeis that is easily swayed by vote seeking politicians against a resented, wealthy ethnic minority.

Fiji’s dilemma today like many developing countries is the attempt to unify two separate worlds in the old (tribalism) vs the new (globalism), where our indigenous identity is pushing for separatism and our modern / global identity is pushing for uniformity. So with separatism consisting of the Vanua, Tribalism and Lotu on one side of the pole and Uniformity consisting of Government, Globalism and Technology on the opposite side, both forces are operating with equal strength in opposite directions, one driven by parochial hatred and the other by universalising markets. As such one re-creating ancient sub national and ethnic borders within and the other making national borders porous from without, respectively both Forces have only one thing in common and that is neither offers much hope to citizens looking for practical ways to govern themselves democratically. Gradually, both forces are set on a collision trajectory in the destruction of democracy which has been evident in its collision with our past history of 1987, 2000 and 2006.

Many readers will surely protest this opinion given the porous peripheries that allow for the interpretation of the RFMFs role, its relevance and need to exist as much as democracy is a notoriously contested term meaning different things to different people.

To conclude, everything today is about maintaining that delicate sense of balance in a world of contradicting forces where uniformity is pitted against separatism, tribalism against globalism and religion against technology.

These socio-political transformations are creating havoc in our world resulting in disintegration every time they come together or collide. These colliding forces are creating the paradox of our times.

So with that in our minds, must the RFMF remain silent when the occupants of a glass house continue to throw stones at each other? Or, is it better for us to speak out and warn of the impacts of throwing stones in a glass house. Mr Dakuvula’s has strongly indicated that the RFMF should remain at the side lines and watch silently, assumingly, until the glass house breaks and shatters into very tiny glass pieces.

If that is the case, then the people of this country have the right to ask…

“To what purpose does the RFMF Exist?”

Feedback:  jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

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