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
‘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.
‘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.