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THE FIJI DAILY POST Suva, Fiji Islands

EDITORIAL November 14, 1998

Now that [Fiji] army chief Ratu Epeli Ganilau has admitted his political bias, by confirming he will contest May's general elections, he should tell the country what he will do next.

Will he now resign so as to maintain the non-political nature of the office? Or will he hang on and run the danger of setting the precedence that will haunt the military for years to come?

The coup in 1987 has shown how dangerous it is to have the army politically aligned and active.

That does not mean that Ratu Epeli's intention to contest the elections is in any way comparable to the army takeover of government 10 years ago.

But the danger is still there. And the country just cannot afford to have as its army commander a person who admits to having political preferences.

The problem here is not about the right of a person to be involved in a democratic political process.

It is about assurances and security, especially in a country like Fiji, which has experienced a race-based military coup.

This country's Indian population has little faith in the Fijian-dominated military.

They see it as serving only the interest of the indigenous Fijians, and a continual threat to the political aspirations of the Indians.

Many people believe Ratu Epeli to be a nice man with very good intentions.

His political actions and inferences, however, can ruin his reputation while also opening the door for the army to allow political influences into its ranks.

In fact it has been known for some months that certain senior officers in the army have been involved in the formation of the political party [Veitokani ni Lewenivanua Lotu Vakarisito] that Ratu Epeli is highly tipped to join.

Yet in all the months that this has been going on, the commander has not been seen to be making any tangible effort to discipline those officers.

Apart from all this, it is good to see a young noble like Ratu Epeli having political ambitions.

He certainly has the qualities, the training and the grooming to play an important role in the political leadership of this country.

But before he gets there, he must be seen to be doing the right thing. Because at the end of the day his success or failure rests in the hands of the people of Fiji.

They are the ones who will judge him.

Title -- 1814 POLITICS: Fiji army chief's 'political dream Date -- 14 November 1998 Byline -- Editorial Origin -- Source -- Daily Post (Fiji), 14/11/98 Copyright - DP Status - Unabridged

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