FIJI MILITARY MUST HOLD ITS TONGUE

Editorial

FijiSUN

SUVA, Fiji (Jan. 12) - The continuing public feud between Fiji’s military and its government ultimately revolves around a single question: Should the army enter the public arena with its views on the performance and deeds of an elected regime?

A majority of senior officers in the army evidently believe the answer is a resounding, ‘Yes,’ while the Government, understandably perhaps, takes the opposite view.

The army’s inclination to take a public position may well have been born of those dark days of 2000 when it was forced into the public limelight purely in order to preserve law and order and the very integrity of the state. And let’s be under no illusions, but for the actions of the army and its commander the consequences of that upheaval might well have been catastrophic and permanent.

Instead, the people of Fiji were given back their democracy by loyal soldiers, men and women of honor. The difficulty now is that the army is not pleased with the way in which the civilians have used that democracy. In its statement yesterday the military rails against the fact that the government has been too soft on chiefs involved in the coup.

It makes no secret of its anger at what it sees as the blatantly corrupt manner in which former vice president Ratu Jope Seniloli was released from prison under a compulsory supervision order. Many would agree. Others might not.

Still others might comment that the army has its own sins to atone for – not the least being its less than fulsome cooperation in bringing to justice the murderers of the CRW men who were kicked to death in November 2000. More than four years later no arrests have been made.

But the original question remains central to the argument. Should the army take a public position? The view of this newspaper is that it should not. While understanding and sympathizing with much that the military feels strongly about, these are matters that should be left to the voters to decide.

The very notion of the Government and the army at public loggerheads is destabilizing. The thought at the back of the public mind is that if the army gave us our democracy, could it not also take it back? Such fears are fuelled by the feud that neither side seems able to end. The army need not abandon its views. But the public would prefer them to remain unstated. The voters would prefer the army to return to its role as protector and guarantor of their democracy while they themselves get on with the running of it.

January, 13, 2005

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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