Sunday Feature: An Insider's View from the Outside
Nesian is a pseudonym for a moderate, Fiji-born, part-Fijian, Hindi-speaking, sky-blue passport-carrying, former Fiji-resident. An Insider's View From the Outside is the result of years spent thinking about all that has happened since the 2000 coup. Photo. Earth from space.Oakfieldmedia.com
Looking for a Prime Minister After the Speight Coup
Former development banker Laisenia Qarase was, to Bainimarama, the perfect candidate to turn his dream of a united Fiji into reality.
Ever since Independence, Fiji’s politicians had relied on the
tried-and-tested methods of racial politics. If you were Indian, you blamed the “lazy” Fijians. If you were Fijian, you criticised the“selfish” Indians. If you were kai-loma, well you tried to align yourself with the Fijians who owned all the land, or the Indians who had all the money.Otherwise, you put your head down and hoped no one would see you.
But the stalemate that followed initial discussions between George Speight’s group and the military was resolved when Qarase was appointed interim Prime Minister. Here was a Fijian without political connections, who was untainted by the nationalistic spores that seemed to have contaminated everyone else. And for Bainimarama, he was the better choice than the openly xenophobic alternative, Adi Litia Cakobau.
As campaigning began for new elections in 2001, Bainimarama sent out civil affairs teams from the military to the remotest parts of rural Fiji. They had one directive, to urge the people to vote for Laisenia Qarase and the new Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party.It was a decision Bainimarama would regret.
The army commander was full of optimism that Qarase would use his position as leader of the country to find, expose and bring tojustice all those who allegedly had a hand in the 2000 coup and mutinies at Sukanaivalu Barracks in Labasa and Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Suva.
In Bainimarama’s eyes, Qarase rewarded them instead: a posting as high commisioner here, ambassador there, an executive posting elsewhere. And whenever someone with links to the 2000 coup was brought to justice, Qarase’s government found imaginative legal methods to let them off.
They now found themselves at odds, drawn inexorably towards their December 2006 showdown. Bainimarama, feeling betrayed; and Qarase, doing all he could to satify, if not his nationalistic leanings, at least those of his political partners with their unique creed of patriotism.