By MAIKA BOLATIKI
Political editor, www.sun.com.fj - 9 November 2006
There is a lot to the stand-off between the Government and the military. From what that has transpired we can easily conclude that someone is trying to portray a picture to the public that one is Mr Clean and is after the dirty rats in the country
Some others are of the view that Mr Clean should clean his backyard first before policing other people's compounds. The military's plate is full of all sorts of allegations against the Government and had been released for public consumption without proof.
But this battle is far from over.
The military is firm on its stand for the Government to withdraw the three proposed lawss - Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, Qoliqoli Bill and the Land Claims Tribunal Bill.
However, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has confirmed to the Bose Levu Vakaturaga that his government will not in any way withdraw the Bills that the military is saying are very controversial.
The Government has followed all the democratic processes in the preparation of its proposed legislation.
But the military is applying warfare tactics to pressure the Government to withdraw the Bills.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister received a document setting out matters the army wished to discuss.
Prime Minster Qarase immediately replied with an assurance that the Government was ready to meet with the commander, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, and his senior officers for consultations.
However, the commander called a press conference a little later and again attacked the Government saying the Prime Minister had lied to the people on many occasions.
We now wonder about the contents of the documents handed to the Prime Minister.
Reading through the press release handed out to the media on Wednesday, I suspect the military wants to discuss the investigation into the deaths of the some of the soldiers at the height of the political upheaval in 2000.
In the release the Commander said: "The RFMF has stated from the outset that the events of 2000 were wrong and all that is happening now is an overflow of that event. Whilst the RFMF agrees that we all want to move forward there is an urgent need to effectively address the past to be able to move forward without having to commit the same mistake again.
"Firstly the death of soldiers in the events of 2000 must never be forgotten. They sacrificed their lives to rid the lies and corruption that a lot of people in the position of leadership were identified with in 2000. We will not let them die in vain. Defending the sovereignty and the well being of every citizen of this country is of paramount importance to the RFMF To date there has never been any public declaration of those who are currently in government that the 2000 crisis was wrong. The introduction of the Reconciliation Bill is seen by the RFMF as an endorsement of the 2000 crisis and a means of trying to escape from the long arm of the law."
There were also some members of the counter revolutionary warfare (CRW) group that died and the police are still investigating. No one can interfere with their work. I'm sure the investigation will reveal the real truth behind the killing of the soldiers. No one can escape from the long arm of the law.
Who gave the orders for the killing?
Another issue I suspect that is in the document is the Commissioner of Police.
In his release Cdre Bainimarama said: "I am somewhat surprised at the Commissioner of Police's recent change in attitude towards the RFMF and towards the general security situation in Fiji. The commissioner's outburst on the RFMF's importation of ammunition has caused unnecessary tension between the two forces, a rift that does not augur well for the relations between the police and military and the decision to investigate me is not in the interest of crime prevention and investigation but to remove me from office a result of political pressure on the Police Commissioner to silence the RFMF.'
The Acting Commander who wrote a letter to Commissioner Hughes calling for his resignation presented the document to the Prime Minister.
With the Prime Minister now ready to talk with the military on what is in the document, it will be better not to talk on things that involve the police.
Prime Minister Qarase has assured the country that he is not passing the buck to the Bose Levu Vakaturaga (BLV) to solve the impasse between the Government and the military.
"I come here in accordance with the law and out of respect for your chiefly authority. I do not wish to pass to you a problem the Government must solve," the Prime Minister said in his presentation at the BLV meeting.
It was very unfortunate for the commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, Commodore Voreqe Bainiamarama, to be absent.
This special GCC meeting was called at the request of the Prime Minister to help bring to an end the fear and uncertainty that hangs over our country.
It is a fact that the absence of the Commander will be viewed by many as very disrespectful.
We should be mindful of the fact that the commander has sent his apology to the BLV chairman and Tavua high chief Ratu Ovini Bokini.
I'll come back to that later.
The Prime Minister in his presentation to the BLV said the solution to the problem was clear. And that is: "We need to put right the relationship between the Government elected by the people and the state institution of the army, charged with responsibility for national security."
So from what had transpired yesterday, the Prime Minister had clearly told the BLV on the stand of the government.
In his opening address the BLV chairman said the main object was to find a solution to the conflict.
The Prime Minister would inform the BLV on the problems the Government was facing and the Commander was expected to tell the BLV why the military was against the Government.
And after hearing both sides of the story the members would exchange views in the chiefly manner and come up with recommendations on how the impasse would be solved.
From the military's side, the members of the BLV had to go to the camp to traditionally ask the commander to attend the second day of the meeting.
However, while he agreed without condition, he later set out his own condition through the media for public consumption and that its for the BLV to back off from the impasse.
It seems we are back to square one.
Who will now back down?
The commander has gone out of his own way to criticise the Prime Minister.
I know this is his right but the military must remember that the Prime Minister is the head of the government and must be respected.
The Land Claims Tribunal and the Qoliqoli Bill had been endorsed by the commander when he was the Head of State and Prime Minister Qarase the Interim Prime Minister, in July 13, 2000 at the BLV meeting.
Now he has taken huge turn and is totally against the two Bills.
The impasse has set a totally new scenario that Prime Minister Qarase has correctly said- "At one level, the current crisis is between a government and a institution of the state. But when we look deeply into it, we see that this concern the relationship between a Fijian-led government and a Fijian-led army."
The Government and the military will only solve the impasse.
However, this can only happen if the military shelves its demands.
The military's action borders on dictatorship and this is undemocratic.
Let the Government exercise its duties freely and let the people decide for themselves in the next general elections on its performance.
What had happened in 2000 is now history but we have to support the police investigation to bring to rest once and for all the undemocratic event that resulted in the unlawful abrogation of the constitution by the military.
There is always a way out of the crisis and it is out there.