Pita, Tevita and the Cheshire Cat

PITA DRITI AND RATU TEVITA ULUILAKEBA MARA. There has been much speculation over the significance of these two senior military officers taking extended leave.

Those opposed to the Bainimarama government claim the situation reflects serious divisions in the military and an attempt by Bainimarama to forestall action against him. Those promoting this interpretation include the blog CoupFourPointFive (that first published the story), former Land Force Commander Jone Baledrokadroka (now studying at ANU), RadioNZ International (that most unusually cited a blog as its source of information!) and journalist-cum-blogger Michael Field with his usual bag of weighted words and colourful phrases.

Field writes: "Key members of a colonel’s clique that backed Fiji’s 2006 military coup have been sent on indefinite leave by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama amid wild rumours of further action. Two key figures were dumped yesterday following the unexplained departure of another last month as Bainimarama appears to be fending off challenges..."

Reports from Suva, however, suggest there is nothing unusual about the move.  The Fiji Sun  reports:  "A huge amount of outstanding leave has led to two senior temporary appointments within the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces.Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga has been appointed acting Land Force Commander and Major Amani Suliano is temporary commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment.They will hold the fort for Brigadier Pita Driti and Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba, who are on leave." [My italics.]

So where does this leave independent observers?  Should they believe the story started by CoupFourPointFive, that a month ago reported that Voqere Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had been arrested (when Bainimarama was actually at a meeting and Khaiyum was overseas) or should they believe the official story?  Both sides are credible and both sides want us to believe what they say.  For the moment, I'll observe the old Cheshire saying, "When in doubt, do nowt."

"`Cheshire Puss,' [Alice] began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. `Come, it's pleased so far,' thought Alice, and she went on. `Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
`I don't much care where--' said Alice.
`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
`--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'"

                                                         --From Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

. From the blog Archives 15 July 2009."Last week CoupFourpointfive reported Bainimarama had suspended Land Force Commander Pita Driti and Commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Regiment Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara. But on Monday the story was that it was Driti and Ratu Tevita telling Bainimarama to step down, and yesterday (Wednesday) it's back to Bainimarama telling Driti and Ratu Tevita again. Yet both officers were reported taking morning tea on Monday at the barracks and neither has made a public statement. To keep the pot boiling, the blogs also reported tension "within the ranks" over Bainimarama's cancellation of the Methodist Conference, saying "inside sources" said the Conference will go ahead despite the cancellation.

As you may see, I think it's a little early to take the CoupFourPointFive story too seriously.


Head in the sand said…
Keep your head in the sand croz - in your world of blame and denial. Tik tok....tik tok....
Alter ego said…
"A huge amount of outstanding leave has led to..."

Funny that! Last time this happened it led to huge back-payments to a few special military personnel.
Smoke without fire said…
I can understand the speculation about Pita Driti, Croz, because there have been constant rumours of tension between him and Bainimarama, mainly over the PM's unwavering support for the AG. Driti can't stand Aiyaz and doesn't care who knows it. But taking on Frank would be an entirely different matter and Driti simply doesn't have the numbers on the Military Council to mount a plausible challenge. He'll be only too aware that the last person who took on Frank, Jone Baledrokadroka, barely escaped with his life and has to be content nowadays with fueling the rumour mill from the safety of the ANU in Canberra.
But let's just look at Tevita Mara, aka Roko Lui, and what motive he might have for moving against Frank. Even if you buy these rumours - and that's all they are - I don't think this member of Fiji's most distinguished family would move without the support of the rest of the Mara-Ganilau clique. And what motive do they have for moving against Frank? One of Tevita Mara's sisters is married to the President, Epeli Nailatikau. and has long expressed the family's support for Bainimarama as the nation's only hope. Another sister is married to the Defence Minister, Epeli Ganilau. Surely it would require all of these people to have become disillusioned with Frank for Roko Lui to mount a serious challenge? Were he to do so otherwise, he'd come into direct conflict with his brother-in-law, the President, who's also commander in chief of the military. Can anyone point out a single instance of Epeli Nailatikau showing disenchantment with Frank? If they can, then I'd be prepared to consider an alternative hypothesis. Yes, Frank was instrumental in removing Roko Lui's father, Ratu Mara, from the presidency in 2000. Has young Tevita been seething about this privately ever since? Yet where's the evidence for that? The fact is that all along, Frank has upheld the Mara multiracial vision as the only path for Fiji to follow. He's also never criticised Ratu Mara publicly and maintains that the extraordinary events of 2000 were only made necessary by the Speight gun at his head. Tevita Mara is constantly in Frank's presence at various public events and the body language between them doesn't suggest animosity. So surely Frank is safe so long as he retains the confidence of the Mara-Ganilau dynasty. Their two great patriarchs, Ratu Sir Kamisese and Ratu Sir Penaia, made it their life's work to try to produce a prosperous, multiracial Fiji. Are their children any less likely to want the same thing? Everything these people say and do indicates that they remain faithful to the cause, the cause being pursued by Frank Bainimarama. We'd need to accept that either the family has turned or that Tevita is a renegade, more interested in his own personal agenda and the pursuit of power through yet another upheaval at the point of a gun. And there's no evidence of either as far as I can see.
Croz Walsh said…
@ Smoke ... This detailed comment needs greater exposure. Would it be okay if elevated it into a full posting?
LED signs said…
Great stuff here. A nice variety and all well-written. Now don't you worry, he can turn it up a notch when he needs to! His pride will get him ring #5 this season.
TheMax said…
@ Croz

I just wanted to let you know some of the reasons why some military officers are sent on leave from time to time.

While some officers are sent on leave because they have outstanding leave due to them, Frank Bainimarama has zero tolerance for those undertaking extra-marital affairs within the camps. He already mentioned this a couple of times in the past during some of his addresses to the RFMF.

Frank is only implementing what the code of conducts that govern these institutions and he is right in doing so. He cannot afford to have some of his own officers or civil servants abusing their positions by breaking their code of conducts when there's work to be done.
Global Governance Rankings said…
@ Fiji's Listing with Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq etc.....

The use of taxpayers money will eventually be the axis upon which credibility and legitimacy will turn. The funding of governments comes from taxation. These funds must be used with complete accountability and increasing transparency at all times. The trust of the people who pay them may only be established in this way. Taxpayers will determine the future of governance globally: how it runs, how it is accountable to them and what services they receive for their money. Based on their perception and evidence of this expenditure, governments will come and go. Quite rightly so.
Doesn't add up said…
Hi Croz,

Surprised to see you say here that both sides in this are credible. Jone Baledrokadroka and Michael Field? Both have been either beat up merchants or plain wrong in the past and both have axes to grind. They've certainly got a history of leaping on anything that strengthens their own position. Ask yourself this. Is there a history of the regime announcing something like this and the public finding out later that it was a smokescreen for something else? Why put out a false story in a place like Suva where everyone knows everyone's business or soon will? If these guys are being dispensed with, why not just say so? The fallout is the same if what Baledrokadroka and Michael Field are saying is true.
Tevita Mara isn't just an ordinary soldier. There'd be consequences in the vanua out in Lau if he was shafted, presumably his family would be upset and I just don't believe any of it.
sara'ssista said…
And wher is the PS for misInformation on all of this? always quick with a less than candid retort attacking aus, nz and everyone else....but certainly not the military. So agin we say PER is still place for what reason ...we can look to Croz for great explanation... and defence of this regime and why he feels again to give the benefit of the doubt to a miltary regime that is no friend to the media. Perhaps he is still using the 'oh they are military and so inexperienced in this government and media management thing'. no croz they just ignore or don't care about any sort of accountability and leave it to others to work it out for themselves. they again have themselves to blame for any alleged misinformation
Dont believe said…
I'm with "Doesn't add up". If past history is anything to go by, I would put alot of money on the governments version rather than coupfourpointfive.

If anything on coupfourpointfive is ever actually found to be correct, it will be due to blind luck rather than any credible information. If you through out enough rumours, eventually one of them will have to be right.
Joe said…
It is amazing that Fijisun calls it "two temporary appointments whereas Radio Fiji says "replacements". FBCL reported it first and Fijisun next day obviously. Even more amazing is that FBCL link to this particular news item has mysteriously disappeared.

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