'Peter Firkins's Ideas on What to Do with the Military

Dreaming about a stable Fiji without the military albatross around our neck.

 By 2020 the Fiji Military should be a ceremonial force only.

An opinion piece by Peter Firkin
In the future no immunities.
Let’s look into the future when Fiji has a new constitution and new democratically elected government and concentrate on how we stop a recurrence of the repeated cycle of military coups.
There will be no elections without handing out immunities to all those who have committed crimes in the process of removing an elected government.  Why would you give up control if you were then arrested and jailed?
These immunities have become accepted as part of the “normal method” of ending a coup and would have been factored into the thinking of all the various coup perpetrators.  Apologising and seeking forgiveness is built into our heritage and is accepted in Fiji as a normal part of daily living.
 This must end in relation to coups.  A stable democracy requires a subservient obedient military under the direction of an elected government.
The new constitution must specifically ban the issuing of any immunity for any activity that undermines the democratic government.
 How does a civilian government protect itself from its military?
The current coup will not be the last unless there is a radical change in attitudes towards the democratic “rights” of Fiji’s citizens by the military.
Unless action is taken the new constitution will be no more secure than the old one from military whim and abrogation.
As the military has been involved in all the previous coups then how do we protect ourselves from those with military authority and weapons?
 How do we bring the military back to its correct position as subservient to the government of the day?
Do we need the military?
Do we need a military and what size army does a country of 800,000 people need?
Fiji has a larger army than Papua New Guinea that has a population of 7,000,000.
 Fiji is unlikely to be attacked from an external country and our wide geographic area and 330 islands make it indefensible to our traditional infantry type ill equipped army.  We have neither the air force nor the type of navy required to take on any of our major neighbours.  There is no current or potential threat to the nation of Fiji
 Why does it exist?
Peacekeeping is often cited as a reason with remittances from overseas soldiers a significant foreign exchange earner for the country.   The remittances however do not compare well with the overall cost of maintaining a standing army of 3,500 active soldiers and 6,000 reservists.   The drain on the countries budget cannot be justified by remittances.
So why does it exist?   Border protection could be handled by a ready reaction force of less than 100 military trained officers operating under the jurisdiction of the Police Commissioner.
Any new constitution must not enshrine the Fiji Military Forces as the defender of the people.  With no external threat the only potential use of this force is against the civilian population.
 The recent activities by the armies of Syria. Egypt and Libya against their civilian population and the reaction of the international community show this is not an acceptable use of military force.
So what do we do with a force of 3500 trained soldiers?
I suggest we wind them down. 
Stop recruiting and retrain those with other skills.
 Offer a paid redundancy to all soldiers. Our standing army cost us in excess of $35,000 per soldier per annum to maintain.  Offering all soldiers a year’s salary as a redundancy payment should be a start.
 The military engineers should be made into a State Owned Enterprise or a Shareholding Cooperative to contract road and civil engineering projects.  If necessary these projects should be subsidized by the government until the commercial skills are developed.  By 2020 all subsidies should be removed with a fully commercial unit remaining.
The navy should be converted into a Coast Guard with emphasis on protecting our fisheries and our Exclusive Economic Zone as this becomes more important with the development of undersea mining.
Private companies in Fiji should be given a subsidy to recruit active soldiers into the workforce.
 The Australian, New Zealand and British armed forces should be encouraged to select from the current standing army in our country.
There should be a plan in place to reduce our military to a ceremonial status by a suggested date of 2020.
Al of the above should release the majority of the estimated $129 million dollars currently drained each year from the economy by the military.
This is sufficient to service all of our current overseas debt.

Comments

Know Your Place! said…
Very simple reply to all this. The Military and the Police Force and members of any government of institution of governance are ALL paid from taxes - in other words PUBLIC MONIES.

Once this is digested and fully comprehended most of the rest falls into place as a matter of clarity. Not too many arguments may be mounted to better this one?


"Know your place"!
Anonymous said…
You try to argue that Fiji does not require a military. However, with recent tensions with Tonga I beg to differ. If Fiji did not have a military I would bet the Minerva reef would now be a part of Tonga rather than still being "disputed". And it is not too hard to imagine a situation with some nut on the throne of Tonga making claims to Lau and trying to take the whole group.
Anonymous said…
At anon

And with the military we have a nut who claims to own Fiji
Mal said…
Without a military, what would all those high born Ratu's do for a job?

To me, it seems part of the role of the Fiji military is to provide a playground with high social status for many of the younger sons of chiefly families.
sara'ssista said…
@ Anon...the argument you are trying to make astounds me. Not only does it make o sense given there is a diplomatic dispute on sea boundaries and borders, but i cannot recall any instance in the last 100 years when two pacific nations went to war, or even close. The point is well taken that this military is self fulfilling and serves no purpose in peacekeeping that another nation cannot perform. Locally it has caused nothing but grief and whatever good reputation it had prior to 1987 is well and truly gone. Now we have militocracy that appears to model it's role in the nation on burma, zimbabwe, indonesia and china and is evolving like ancient rome at the time of the caesars. A crying shame. Oh and BTW even if minerva reef was to become part of Tonga, so what?? Fiji is prepared to send it's boys to kill tongans...i don't think so. They will do it the fijian way and talk and talk and talk and talk.The only people they beat up and kill are arabs and other fijians.
Anonymous said…
Can the white Australian people tell the world what is there plan for the next 100 years.
Is it there intention to remain a white outpost with a continued Eurocentric mindest?
Will they ever face the reality that they are surrounded by black and brown people. Will it ever enter their conciuosness that this is so and maybe think and discuss this issue, rather then to win and loose elections over some few boat people.
How long will it take? White and brown ie. Kiwis are OK but they seam to baulk at black Melenisians.
It a short 30 years Australia ill double its population as will Melenanesia & Polynesia. In a hundred years we will be living with over 100 million population.
Half of which will be utterly failed states in grinding poverty.
Australia needs to assimilate the region into one big economic and social group sharing the same values.
To do so, Australians need to start planning and acting NOW!
Start with the fact you need 200,000 workers.
Have a Pacific Treaty....with bilateral agreements with each state and let these agreements evolve. Under the treaty, agreements for residential and work permits etc,etc can be put in place that are completely flexiable to meet each states needs. This will be a win-win for the region and the future.

To start the ball rolling, make an OPEN OFFER to the Fijian people and army to assimilate the RMF into a Pacific Force, funded and officered by Australia.
Australia gets a cheap extension to its self-defence capability, a lot cheaper solution to a possible intevention scenario. Stability in a neighbouring state that has so far been an embarresment for it on the world stage, a place it has pretensions of playing. God forbide who gave it these thoughts whilst being surrounded by island slums.
One wonders if Canberra appreciates the amount of Australian investment in Fiji and the advantagiuos balance of payment situation that translates into many Australian jobs.
All of this being put at risk for lack of foresight.
sara'ssista said…
I think you overstate how much anyone now values fiji in the region. Png has much more pressing issues and aus has much more of an obligation there, why do we owe anything to fiji...assimilate in the region? While others are always paying fiji's bills, they are in no position to dictate to anyone. Fiji should come last in any guest worker arrangement maybe this will force appropriate change in fiji. Rather than waiting around for others to go cap in hand to a military dictatorship.
Proper Review said…
Any discussion of the itaukei dominated Fiji Military has to be in relation to the current circumstances of the indigenous population in particular those residing in various degrees of feudal type leadership structures and various stages of economic development and gainful employment in villages. A proper review of the role and function of the Military should be initiated by the Military themselves. It does not help to have so called clever opinionators making statements such as , " Now we have militocracy that appears to model it's role in the nation on burma, zimbabwe, indonesia and china and is evolving like ancient rome at the time of the caesars." There are different types of challenges that the military could be trained for such as the battle against the cultivation and export of marijuana and climate change. As well there could be more coordination between the work of the Military and that of the Police. The Military cannot be flippantly dismissed out of hand. They are very much part of the indigenous culture but will have to adapt to the needs of current times.
Anonymous said…
Arm the chiefs and let them rule because they were born to rule. Democracy has not worked and will not work. Chiefly rule has worked and can work. Indians have no chiefs so there will not be any problem in them seeking chiefly positions. They should be given the right of membership to any tribe that they choose and they should be treated as bonafide members of the tribe with all rights no whit inferior to others of the same tribe. In the long term there will be intermarriage, genuine integration and respect for one another. We should think outside the square for the good of all the peoples of Fiji!
sara'ssista said…
@proper review, what a gall..my comments do not have be designed to 'help' you...and i note you don't refute them, just distract the reader with alternatives. As if this military would listen to you while they rule. Surely even Croz has worked that out. They have no plan to leave power , only to have the next civilian regime living in fear of their power and propensity to intervene when they see fit, whether the people call for it or not. Suggest a way...the people that matter are to busy making plans to leave and make hay while the sun shines, for them.

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