Tevita Mara Re-Writes History: It's all Khaiyum's Fault

A Fiji Democracy Now blog cartoon
By Crosbie Walsh

One day, ten or more years hence, someone will attempt to write a accurate history of Fiji during the first two decades of the 21st century, and blogs will be one source of their information. It would be a formidable task in any event but with the vast number of sources available in the electronic age, and with every Tomasi, Rajieli and Hari expressing opinions with no evidence, or citing anonymous information relayed from so many 'usually reliable sources', it will be near impossible to know what weight to give to give to each source.

What will make it even more difficult is that some histories are already being written, and re-written with deliberately distorted material posing as facts.

Such is the case of Ratu Tevita Mara's latest media release (also in RawFijiNews) where he has taken almost all major events since the 2006 Coup and attributed them not to who he calls the 'murderer Bainimarama' but to the 'illegal Attorney-General Aiyaz Khaiyum' who he claims is 'the real Head of the illegal and repressive junta [adding that] the sooner the murderer Bainimarama and the army leaders see it, the better it will be for them and for Fiji as a whole.'

So, if only Bainimarama and the army leaders had the wit to see what Ratu Tevita sees, Fiji's troubles would be over.

Stupid, Bainimarama; stupid army leaders, stupid kai colo, and by extension of argument, stupid itaukei. You've been outwitted again and used by the cunning mongooses. Thank goodness there are still a few selfless, intelligent and outspoken chiefs around like Ratu Tevita to help you see what's wrong with our beloved country.

New Twist in Old Ploy

Readers familiar with Fiji history will recognize Ratu Mara's revelations as a new twist on the old, old story of blaming Fiji's woes on the rapacious Indians. For the moment, we won't ask him why he did not reveal and act on these chilling facts about the Indian conspiracy as events unfolded over a four year period when he was the officer commanding the 3rd Battalion based at Suva's Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

Mara tells us that the power Khaiyum has today did not all come at once. It was, as you would expect from a cunning mongoose, acquired by stealth, one step at a time. I have used Mara's exact words in many places in the discussion that follows. Note them well. They tell us as much about the nature of the man as his argument.

Constitution in, Constitution out, and shake it all about
You put your right foot in, You put your right foot out;
You put your right foot in, And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey-Pokey, And you turn yourself around.
That's what it's all about!

First, Mara tells us,  Khaiyum 'gave in to whatever Bainimarama desired and laid the political and legal strategy on how to achieve it.' He started by persuading the murderer (who he later calls an ignoramus) to retain the 1997 Constitution. Why? Because it is the right thing to do? No. Because  Khaiyum wanted to 'preserve his Australian status'.

This is the first time I've heard that Bainimarama wanted to abandon the Constitution. From the earliest days he said he was acting within the constitution, and the group working on the People's Charter said the same. He obviously thought changes were needed to its electoral clauses but on occasion after occasion he declared support for the Constitution.

However, Khaiyum knew that if there was a legal challenge to the Coup, 'the illegal junta would lose ... so he worked out a heinous plan to remove Chief Justice Fatiaki, by forcing him to resign.' By the time the challenge from deposed PM Qarase came, 'it was heard before a panel headed by the ubiquitous Anthony Gates who was promised the position of Chief Justice.' The panel declared the Coup legal on the basis of the Doctrine of Necessity. Qarase appealed and some time later the Appellate Court ruled in his favour. The Coup was illegal.

The murderer was displeased 'and took Khaiyum to task for what happened.' Why, I do not know. Khaiyum was not responsible for the Court's decision.

Fortunately, the cunning Khaiyum found a solution which Bainimarama accepted : 'Abrogate the Constitution and rule by decree. [Mara tells us that] Bainmama  did as he was advised.'

So this was the first step: get Bainimarama  to uphold the 1997 Constitution and then get him to abrogate it. These shouldn't have been hard decisions. Bainimarama wanted to rule under the Constitution but when the Court ruled his Government illegal, he had no choice but to abrogate the constitution if he wished to retain power. Even an ignoramus could have worked that out — without any advice from Khaiyum.

Khaiyum's creates his power base by roping in his family

Step two sees Khaiyum, 'lusting for power' and starting the job of 'creating his own power base.' Why he should only start this in the second half of 2009, Mara does not explain. But he is clear about the process and those involved:
'So Khaiyum roped in his family. Judge Nazat Shameem and her sister Shaista Shameem who resigned her Government post and joined the cabal. Khaiyum’s aunty Nur Bano Ali and her Accounting Firm did likewise. So did all members of their family. Soon, Khaiyum had a huge circle of people that had more power than Bainimarama and the Military.'
Really? More power than the military?  His 'huge circle' would need to be really huge. I wish Mara had named them for they cannot include Cabinet, excluding Khaiyum himself, of course, or the Military Council where he has no influence, and yet this is where most people would think the power lies.

And I wish he'd explained what he means by family. Of those mentioned, only his aunt is a relative. Or is this another of the plot stories spread by some opposed to the Bainimama government. The whole thing is a Muslim plot, probably with some Al Qaeda involvement. If so, he should be informed that not only are the Shameem sisters unrelated to Khaiyum, many orthodox Sunni Muslims would claim that the Ahmadiyya faith to which they belong is not even Muslim. So much for Khaiyum's “family,” however defined.

Khaiyum lures Bainimarama into acceping a massive salary, and giving him more portfolios
Now comes step three. With his support base assured, Khaiyum seeks to put Bainimarama even more under his control by conceiving:
'a plan for massive salary payments, which his aunty’s accounting firm dispensed. [Khaiyum now has] a choke hold over Bainimarama with evidence of corruption and fraud.'
In step four, he persuades Bainimarama to —
'endow him (Khaiyum) several Ministries to explain the high salary but really it was to expand his power outreach.' Bainimarama is 'blind to Khaiyum’s real intentions. After all [says Mara], Khaiyum has a university education whereas Bainimarama is an ignoramus.'
Bainimarama's nine-member cabinet is much smaller than the 33-member Qarase government cabinet, and almost all the ministers hold more than one portfolio. Khaiyum has eight: Attorney-General, Justice, Anti-Corruption, Public Enterprises, Communications, Civil Aviation, Tourism, and Industry and Trade. He is one of two Indo-Fijian cabinet minister, and the other one is Hindu. Not much of a base for an Indian Muslim takeover.

Bainimarama  has even more portfolios: Finance, Strategic Planning, National Development, Public Service, People's Charter, Information, iTaukei and Multi-ethnic Affairs and Sugar. He is also the acting minister of Lands and Mineral Resources. Joketani Cokanasiga is also powerfully placed with responsibility for Lands, Defence, National Security and Immigration. Khaiyum hasn't got very far in expanding his 'power base.'

Mara has it that Khaiyum talked  Bainimarama into giving him a large portfolio. I think it more probable that Khaiyum was an obvious choice. Khaiyum is a lawyer. He is loyal, very capable, efficient, reliable and hard working. When I met him last year he was working 12 or more hours a day, every day. He has had an input into many Government decrees and promulgations but most decrees are not political and they have done nothing to expand his power base.  If anything, his prominence has increased his unpopularity with the public, and given Government opponents such as Mara a chance to appeal to anti-Indian and anti-Muslim sentiments.  Some have said Khaiyum is Bainimarama's weak spot but Bainimarama has resisted pleas to get rid of him for the obvious reason that he is very good at his job.  

Khaiyum's land grab has Bainimarama attacking the Chiefs and Church

Step Five plays on another itaukei fear, one used to justify earlier coups, the unfair voting system, and most pro-itaukei legislation by the the Qarase government, and repeated over and over again by the itaukei extremists. Mara calls it The Land Grab:
'Khaiyum’s power circle then went after what they sought the most, Fijian land.'
Why they should want the land is not explained. It is just assumed to be so, because, after all, it was always said to be so. But today most Indo-Fijians live in urban areas and are employed in non-primary industries. Those smallholders who work the land are fewer than ever before. The demographic profile of cane farmers is ageing as their children leave the land or emigrate.

But to return to the Khaiyum plot.

Step Six. To gain control over the land, Mara says ' Khaiyum had to remove two key stumbling blocks, the Great Council of Chiefs and the Methodist Church. [He says] the Great Council of Chiefs was dissolved through Khaiyum’s nurturing.'

I thought it was because the GCC and prominent chiefs like Ro Teimumu publicly opposed the Government, the People's Charter, most other Government endeavours, and refused to accept Bainimarama's nominee for Vice-President.

Step Seven. Bainimarama's attack on the Church.
'Khaiyum again used Bainimarama, while still staying in the background, by influencing the murderer to miniaturise [?] the Methodist Church and to remove some of the more militant Fijian Church officials.'

I don't see any direct connection between the Methodist Church and the land.  Most observers thought Bainimarama was concerned about the Church's political involvements, the racism and extreme nationalism of some of its leaders, their support for previous coups, and their opposition to the People's Charter and other Government initiatives.

My understanding is that Bainimarama initially cracked down on the Church because of the strong possibility that its Annual Conference, to be held in Rewa, could have been used as a platform to rally anti-Government support and possibly lead to a march on Suva where some extremists said they hoped there would be a confrontation with the army.

Had this happened, it would have been interesting to see how Ratu Mara, in charge of the armed forces, would have acted. However, Bainimarama apparently did not get his way. The Church “ held fast.” To what and why is not explained.

So Mara says Khaiyum changed tactics and went about acquiring land in another way:
'He persuaded Bainimarama that land use is vital to Fiji’s economic development and that a Land Bank was the solution. Subsequently, a Land Bank was created. The greedy, avaricious culprit Khaiyum controls the Land Bank.'
It is hard to accept that  Bainimarama  did not know the importance of land. On his many provincial tours he constantly spoke of bringing idle land into production, and a major part of the Strategic Framework for Change has been improving infrastructure to get rural produce to markets. But before this, before Khaiyum was even on the scene, Pillar 6 of the People's Charter stated the need to make more land available and productive. The main trust has been to increase agricultural production by itaukei for domestic and foreign markets.

The Land Banks were a much later idea and so far  have involved relatively little land area. They are completely voluntary; they offer guarantees to landowners and tenants, and they mainly involve land used for mining, forestry or other commercial uses. I cannot see how Khaiyum's presumed control over the Land Banks gives his 'power circle … what they sought the most, Fijian [read:itaukei] land.

Khaiyum uses Bainimarama to control army

Step Eight. Mara goes on:
'Khaiyum is cunning. He knows that he can’t get rid of Bainimarama because the murderer controls the army and the army is the source of power in Fiji. So Khaiyum has to control the army through its Commander, the murderer Bainimarama. If you control the Commander then you control the Army. This is exactly the situation in Fiji today.'
Mara does not explain how he controls the army through its Commander. But I think this is highly unlikely. Bainimarama  has shown on many occasions that he is his own man, and one word from him would see Khaiyum dismissed and his supposed 'power circle' collapse overnight.

Nor can I give credence to any part of Mara's concluding section that sums up his argument, but I publish it here in full so readers may assess the claims, consider his evidence, and compare what he says with their memory of what has happened in Fiji since 2006.

 Khaiyum is the real junta ruler

Mara says: 
'The murderer Bainimarama rules the military junta only in name. The main power and brains behind the throne is Khaiyum and his inner circle. Khaiyum effectively manipulates the murderer Bainimarama to get the Army to do what he wants done, while the murderer and the army are blissfully unaware of what is really taking place.

ratu tevita gormless
"Am I a lying, two-faced ...."
'Bainimarama used the army to remove the Great Council of Chiefs, suppress the Methodist Church, marshal the Fijian people, take control of Fijian land and maintain total control of the country in the belief that it is for Fiji’s benefit. This is incorrect! It was for the benefit of Khaiyum and his inner circle. The murderer Bainimarama and the army have been puppets and Khaiyum and his inner circle are the puppeteers. It is also Khaiyum and his inner circle who are devising the ingenious and insidious plan to privatise and use rigged voting machines for the 2014 elections, if it is held.* After the illegal and fraudulent elections, Khaiyum will have no further use for Bainimarama and he and his inner circle will be the ruling elite in Fiji. Khaiyum will have a battery of Sri Lankan lawyers and highly paid Australian and New Zealand opportunists who answer to him, to back him up. As a young political activist, Khaiyum tried to build bombs to destroy Fijian politicians and political parties. Today, he uses Bainimarama, the army and the decrees to achieve the same objective. The real ruler of the illegal junta in Fiji is Aiyaz Khaiyum. The sooner the murderer Bainimarama and the army leaders see it, the better it will be for them and for Fiji.'
Readers may remember that when Mara fled Fiji he said he was in possession of documents that would prove all.  He even went on TV with Barbara Dreaver to repeat his claim (but he did not show her the documents).  Yet in none of his releases so far has he produced a single shread of evidence, documentary or otherwise,  to support his increasingly incredible claims.

There can be no doubt that Khaiyum is a major player in Fiji today, and some see his influence as excessive.  That is not in dispute. What I have questioned is Ratu Mara's "reconstruction" which sees Khaiyum's rise to power as a result of a carefully conceived plot with each and every event planned for and manipulated to his advantage, while Bainimama, Cabinet and the Military Council remain in complete ignorance of his "sinister" intentions. This is just nonsense.

*It is voter registration will be done electronically; not voting.


yea yea said…
Well written and fair response Croz but tell me this - why does the PM/AG/Government not clear up some of the believable stuff in here. For example they could easily publish the salaries of all ministers and the PM to clear up they are not earning any more than past ministers and in the case of the PM that he is not earning anymore than when he was just Commander ?
Truth ? Hard to find said…
And how much truth or fact would you expect to find in Fiji's media these days or worse still coming from Fiji's government ?
Charles said…
I am not a coup supporter, neither a Khaiyum fan, but the way in which Khaiyum is being scapegoated is quite chilling. The insidious motive is all too clear. Ului Mara is single-minded, relentless and cold blooded in his approach to demonize Khaiyum. He is effectively inciting people to kill. Ului is not as noble as we might have thought.But he was the one involved in the abuses at the army camp, so why are we surprised?

I salute Crosbie Walsh for being the only one standing up to defend Khaiyum. Walsh is truly a knight.
Ram Sami said…
Tevita Mara

You know Khaiyum is saying you were at sea, got into difficulties, fired distress signals, and a passing Tongan navy boat which just happened to be in the vicinity came to your rescue and instead of putting you ashore in the nearest Fiji land, took you away to Tonga.

I dont think he's telling the truth. What do you think, turaga ???
sister saras said…
RUM is hurting, obviously. Poor guy cant go back to Fiji ever. He is almost history now, just like his VRF, which came and went in a blink of an eye.
AGgro said…

You may disagree with Ratu Mara’s analysis of how Khaiyum got to where he is today but you have to agree that Khaiyum is the most influential man in Fiji today. He has more input on the policy and the direction of the Interim government than any other individual including the PM.

Khaiyum and the PM handle every important ministry pertaining to the economic and legal well being of Fiji. Finance, Trade, Public Enterprise, justice and Land. Between the 2 of them they hold the purse strings of the country and so they have de facto control over every other ministry. We all know the PM is minister of finance in name only. He did not even give the budget speech in 2010. At this moment the AG is busy working with the ministry of finance putting together the budget for 2012. The PM is nowhere in sight.

If you lived in Fiji, you would know the business community have stopped going to the PM with any of their opportunities or issues because he only refers them back to Khaiyum. They go direct to Khaiyum and if he wants it to happen he goes to the PM to have it rubber stamped.

You ask the question why didn’t Ratu Mara point out Khaiyum’s rise whilst he was still in the army. He did along with Pita Driti and look where that got them.

Ratu Mara’s analysis on Khaiyum’s rise to power may be incorrect in parts. But everyone in Fiji knows it is Khaiyum who is running the country and not the PM. Mara’s statement is not racist it just reflects the reality on the ground in Fiji.
Cicero said…
@ Croz

Never allow anyone to lie to you twice. Even when writing History (sic - capital 'H').

Eventually, the lies will "out". And then who is going to look silly? Or...a liar.

The March of Folly is soldiering on and on and on......
Fade away MR said…
Suggest we all let this Ratu slide away. Like Chaudry, like Anthony and like so many other he was a supporter of the coup when it worked for him.
Lesley said…
I had never met Nazhat Shameem before - only read about her in the media and on blogs. My husband and I saw her while we were on holiday staying at the Sofitel recently (she was attending a conference - I think something to do with transparency and dealing with corruption etc in the business world in Fiji) so I went up to her to say hello. We had a chat to her and she was delightful and so open and friendly - not at all like what has been said about her in the media and in some blogs. Reading the above post I have to wonder what is really motivating those who show such hatred and nastiness in their comments. It is so easy to blacken someone's name these days via the internet and present opinion and speculation as the truth – be it twisted. I don't know why you all don't bury the pre and post coup hatchet and start working together in a proactive way, openly, honestly, selflessly and positively without personal prejudice, for a better Fiji - for the sake of the younger generation. Accept that change has to happen. If you did then maybe the AG wouldn't have to have as much responsibility as he has right now. A friend has just arrived back in NZ after a week at the Westin. She loved it - didn't want to come home. Fiji is such a special place.
Islands in the Stream said…
An Officer, Gentleman and Chief: is this man, Tevita Uluilakemba Mara, also a practised liar? Or simply a turn-coat who presented his back to the people? An associate of low-life and criminal associates over a long space of time?

If not, why has he not seen fit to front up in Court for the sake of all Fijians? For it is in the courts in full view that we all might have the opportunity to hear his unique version of History. He appears to have made a significant choice to deny this to all Fijians and taxpayers of Fiji. Those who have remunerated him and permitted his cozy niche in life until only a month or so ago.

This is not the expected conduct of a Chief, an officer, a gentleman or of an honest man. Turning your back to the people (as 'significant others' have done before him) will achieve its own reward. In the fullness of time, Tevita Uluilakemba Mara will reap what he has sown.

Passing the blame to others is a distinctly cowardly and reprehensible act which has the insidious effect of demonizing whole swathes of innocent civilians. This is tantamount to a crime against humanity. It will never be tolerated again in Fiji.
SOE said…
@ AGgro.....

What we must ask is a critical question:

To what extent is the interest of the Fijian Taxpayer being served by anyone running eight portfolios?

To what extent is the interest of the Fijian Taxpayer being served by the inherent conflicting interests that arise from such a concentration of power and authority?

Is value added to the tax dollar? Is the coherent and fundamental task of governance furthered or is it impeded?

The Principles of Good Governance are well known and they are very clear. No conflicts of interest undeclared and pursued. (Post Fiji is witness to this?). The Qarase-led three administrations permitted one individual to sit on no less than TEN boards of directors and to Chair THREE. Are we now getting close to this obvious usurpation of the taxpayers' interest?

Public Money and its use is a trust. Just as the lawyers of Fiji are now finding out that their Trust Accounts shall be handled with full transparency and accountability..or else, it also follows that Government Finances shall be handled in a similar fastidious manner. The absolute interest of taxpayers, whose money remunerates all Government Ministers and Civil Servants, must be served. If not, then the dust will fly: literally and metaphorically!

Let no one claim they were never reminded, frequently, of this. Justice, Law & Order demand it. Because the mishandling of Public Money will lead inexorably towards disorder. No one who knows their history can skirt this.

There will be no end to the Coup Cycle so long as taxpayers' money is used arbitrarily, with profligacy. History is a Hard Task Master and we ignore the "March of Folly" at our peril. Fijians deserve so much more and they will increasingly come, inconveniently, demand it.

Let close neighbours take note. For they have chosen to enhance the level of difficulty. This has led to unaccountable governance: serving only to make exit strategies more difficult.
C oming Once in 75-100 year Downturn said…
@ At last The Truth....!

Well, that is erroneous for starters! We are unlikely to approach the truth for some time. That is not the nature of how things are done in Fiji. The truth must be weedled out, teased if you like. It must then be very carefully sifted. All culinary or sewing terms?

For the truth in Fiji is "Up close and personal". Something that many of us would eschew anywhere else on the planet. But there are times when the personal becomes expedient. That time is now.

The personalities and their over-weening self interest must now be confronted. Not necessarily their policies because those scarcely exist. They are arbitrary; constantly subject to change and of necessity to do with wearing the population down, moulding and levelling until there is no resistance or spark of spirit left. Such is the nature of an autocracy. We speak of what we know elsewhere and where the economic havoc wrought is bringing these nations down.

As the economy takes yet another turn for the worse and it will become increasingly "for the worse" as the 2008 sustained recession bites harder, the bickering and the imperative to turn on each other will surge exponentially. Small to medium business will implode and hundreds of jobs will go. Father Barr will need to look elsewhere for his wage increases. There will be no jobs to pay increases. Employers will be cutting to the bone to simply survive. Many will not.

Anyone who cares may check this out already on-line: go to the US Markets and Analysts, UK, European and Investment Advisors in Australia, Singapore. Only the SE Asian Region and Australia will have a hope of holding up in what is now described by none less than Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Professor Ken Rogoff, (former IMF Chief Economist) as a once in 75-100 year Downturn. The equal of 1929 but we are now a Global Economy. This 'adds value' to the acceleration of job destruction.

Getting "Up Close and Personal" means that Dr Nur Bano Ali and her In House consultants will no longer be able to sustain their place as unique and privileged advisors. They will become irrelevant and redundant in what is about to engulf us all. Have they the ability to assuage the coming tsunami? It is very doubtful. Their eyes have been "Off the Ball". That is more than evident.

The PER is denying the population of Fiji access to the basic economic information required. There is growing panic overseas about conflicting advice. Are we up with the different strands of economic thinking at macro level? We have not been in the past. Better sharpen up, before it is too late.
Anonymous said…
boci tevita is a shinning exaple of chiefs in Fiji
Frugality - the only way ahead said…
The personal skills and qualifications required to steer Fiji out of the Coming Storm in the global economy are simply not 'on board'.

The requirements now are far greater than those held by anyone trained in the Law. They must be multi-discipinary and they must come from a long exposure to the political and cultural environment of Fiji. There is no one in evidence on the ground who meets this requirement: no Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, no Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna. We are bereft of great and balanced minds and of those who are grounded in frugality. For the frugal even the austere will rule our futures from henceforth.

No one in Fiji grasps this reality as yet.

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