More Rubbish from Tupuola Terry Tavita

Military Numbers per 1000 Population: Selected Countries

PNG Singa
New Zealand Aust
UK France FIJI Austria Tonga USA Malta Seych
Active 0.5 1.5 2.3 2.5 3.9 4.0 4.1 4.1 4.3 4.8 5.2 5.4 5.7 6.0
Total* 0.5 99.8 2.8 3.4 7.0 12.0 11.2 12.8 4.3 10.9 5.2 83.0 57.2 97.4
* Total includes Reservists.    Source: Wikipedia.

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (Pacific Scoop, June 23, 2010) - The deteriorating situation in Fiji is of major concern to the region. Particularly Pacific Island countries with military and para-military services. We could imagine that several commanders in the vast military forces of Papua New Guinea – and to a lesser extent Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and even Tonga – are now eyeing developments in Fiji closely. No doubt it is giving leaders like Sir Michael Somare some sleepless nights. If it could happen in Fiji, why not other Pacific countries with armies of their own? Read more.

What's wrong with Samoa? Once it was Fiji's friendly neighbour but for many months now there have been only negative comments from Prime Minister Tuilaepa, Forum Sec.Gen. Tuiloma Slade, and  the Samoa Government's acting newspaper editor Tupuola Terry Tavita.  The paragraph above comprises the opening lines of Tupuola's article Deteriorating Situation in Fiji Alarms region published in Pacific Scoop, the Pacific Island Development Programme in Hawai'i and goodness knows where else.

The article is wildly speculative, harmful to  dialogue and improving relations with Fiji,  and factually incorrect. What is deteriorating? The Fiji situation has not substantially changed  since June last year, and is certainly no worse. Who is sounding alarms that have not already been sounded? And who exactly is the region? Australia and New Zealand perhaps, but Island nations other than Samoa seem quite unfazed.

The article is factually incorrect.  Check out PNG's "vast  military forces" in the table above. PNG tops the table for having the smallest military relative to population.  With a population a little larger than New Zealand, their military is under one-third the New Zealand size.

Solomon Islands and Vanuatu do not have a military, not one, and Tonga's 450 soldiers perform mainly ceremonial functions.  It would be unseemly to have a king without an army.

I'm not prone to conspiracy theories but one cannot dismiss the possibility that Samoa has a hidden agenda in its recent pronouncements.  Do they think they will finally persuade the  Forum and other regional agencies to shift their headquarters from Suva to Apia?  Are they wrestling with Fiji for regional leadership? Do they think that any loss for Fiji is a win for Samoa? Have they been asked to be, or do they see themselves as, the Pacific Islands mouthpiece for Australia and New Zealand, perhaps in the hope of more  aid?   Or did they all just get out on the wrong side of the bed?

Tupuola almost stumbled on a partial truth. It is probable that Australian and New Zealand policies towards Fiji are influenced by the idea of containing instability (something like America's old domino theory and the need to contain communism) but it is political and civic -- and not military -- instability with which they are concerned.  They are not so out of touch with the Pacific that they fear military coups in PNG or Tonga. It could happen, of course, but it is highly unlikely, and coups do not necessarily need military force.

A Note to the Table
While you are checking out the table, note the size of the Fiji military.  It has an army and navy of 3,500 active and 6,000 reservists, that per capita places it midway between France and Austria, and not too different from the UK and USA.

Many on the active list are engaged overseas on UN peacekeeping missions. And while Fiji's land area  may be small, it consists of 320 islands and its sea area (EEZ) is 1.3 km2. Not an easy area to protect, if the need arose.  Samoa relies on New Zealand for its protection; Nauru on Australia.  Readers who remember Qarase's call to Australia for military help in 2006 and the presence of two Australian warships just outside Fiji's territorial waters will understand Fiji's reluctance to rely on Australia for  protection. And  little comfort can be taken from Australian Opposition foreign spokeswoman Julie Bishop saying the coalition supported proposed draft laws on sanctions  ---- as an alternative to military force.


Samoan stupidity said…
Croz, I understand your irritation about a blatant misrepresentation but does anyone really care what Tavita thinks? Or any Samoan official for that matter? Fiji has no reason whatsoever to apologise for the size of its military. If the FMF was intent on invading other island states and posed a regional threat, it'd be different. But there's nothing wrong with current troop numbers nor with Fiji capitalising on the military's hard-won reputation for professionalism, discipline and ferocity in battle. Indeed, the rest of the world owes the FMF a big vote of thanks for being prepared to get into all sorts of bother with UN peacekeeping missions that others simply can't or won't do. Aside from that, look at the huge contribution of Fijian soldiers fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq for foreign powers like the British. These guys aren't just a vital part of the collective war on terror but make Fiji an honoured name in the world. And they send badly needed funds back into the Fiji economy. The truth is most people in Fiji are proud of the FMF and don't give a plate of palusami what the Samoans think. What are they doing to keep the world safe? Aside from a lot of hot air, Zip, zero, zilch.
Democracy Rules said…
@ croz and the glee club.
Watch your blood pressure girls!Talofa and congratulations Samoa. And a great win (indeed a thrashing) in the PNC Rugby as well.
Winners are grinners!!
Proud Fijian said…
Nice work on your new look site Croz.

Much easier to navigate through then your previous.

"Sweet As" - the say in your land?
Disingenuity doesn't become you said…
Your statement:
"Readers who remember Qarase's call to Australia for military help in 2006 and the presence of two Australian warships just outside Fiji's territorial waters will understand Fiji's reluctance to rely on Australia for protection"
is unnecessarily disingenuous and places you firmly in line with other media who spread disinformation through innuendo and distorted presentation of ‘facts’.

Australia has always denied that they had any intention of involving themselves militarily in what was perceived to be a worrying, but domestic, problem. The country’s main concern was for its citizens and the warships (two, remember – not exactly an invasion force) was on standby IF citizens needed to be evacuated quickly. It was the measured and prudent response from a concerned government. Had Australia been even remotely serious about stepping in, there would have been a great deal more hardware on open display.

Bainimarama astutely elevated the perceived ‘threat’ as a diversionary measure, both to unite the populace in distaste for foreign ‘intervention’ and distract us from the rather more real threat of the FMF taking over the civilian government.

It’s slightly disappointing that you evidently fell for this manoeuvre but it’s far more troublesome that you should now mention it as justification for Fiji’s reluctance to reply on Australia for protection. Fiji is not Bainimarama, Bainimarama is not Fiji. You should not try distort what happened and so exacerbate the wedge that has already been driven between Fiji and Australia by the actions of both countries’ politicians.
Liu Muri said…
Indeed, Tavita, as the spin doctor for the Samoan Prime Minister does speak a great deal of crap about Fiji without really appreciating or knowing about Fiji's problems.

Terry needs to start his prophecy about Samoa which has been a one party aristocratic rule under the sham of democracy for a long time. They lack an effective opposition, and it is just another form of dictatorship, clothed and masquarading as democracy.

We can already hear and feel the rumblings on the ground level. If Terry or the Samoan PM cannot hear or feel it, they need to bring their ear and eyes to the ground. I predict a political uprising in Samoa. That is what history tells us. Aristocracy does not work forever- remember Indira Gandhi in India during her atrocities in 1970s when she lost power? And Marcos? And how the Berlin wall came down? And how today we are relishing world cup soccer in South Africa that was a black spot on humanity in 1970s? Change will come, only time will tell when. Tavita better tell that to his boss.
Taukei kei Viti said…
Am surprised the illegal re gime in Fiji has not offered you a job as you do such a great job apologising for their lies and deceit. You have passed your used by date of credibility and integrity.

Am one Fijian dying to tell it to your face when I ever see your face in my country of Fiji. Then again if you join the illegal regime you are bound to have an armed escort to protect you..
Croz Walsh said…
@ Taukei ...
Your comment seems like a threat.
I had no armed escort when I was in Fiji two weeks back.

I doubt there's any point saying anything more. Your mind is so made up. I suspect you take a negative position even before you read anything in the blog.

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