Lesson 1 for everyone:
Political expedience is no substitute for democratic process.
Lesson 2 for would-be tyrants:
If you’re going to overthrow a state, leave no functional apparatus which might threaten your regime.
The Fijian Court of Appeal has ruled that Frank Bainimarama’s coup was unlawful and that he should be removed from his position as the head of the interim government and replaced with an “independent person” appointed by the President. (No Right Turn has more.)
This is complicated. A few implications I can see (Pablo can probably do better than I, and anyone is welcome to suggest more):
- The court hasn’t ruled that Former PM Laisenia Qarase should be reinstated – and he would not qualify as an independent person. It’s difficult to think who could, given the regime’s tendency to deport, imprison or intimidate those who didn’t play its game.
- May 1 is the deadline to announce an election date. However Bainimarama is (I assume) no longer constitutionally empowered to do so. He’s damned either way here – if he fails to do so, he tacitly accepts that he hasn’t the right, and if he does so, then he overrides the court of the land and gives his political opponents a legitimate chance to overthrow the regime.
- Bainimarama may now be officially illegitimate in law, but he does still command the armed forces in fact, and they have demonstrated in the past few years what they’re prepared to do for him. The task of re-establishing legitimate government is harder than simply declaring an “independent person” the new interim PM.
- Assuming Bainimarama doesn’t step down, the international community now has firm grounds to throw the figurative book at Fiji, cutting off all aid, trade and diplomatic ties on the grounds that Bainimarama’s government is now illegitimate in law. Indeed, you could argue that they have no choice but to do so. This means a likely deepening of previous policies which haven’t really done much to hurt the regime but have done plenty to hurt the ordinary Fijian people, and could drive Fiji closer to China. Tough call.
Geopolitics is a funny beast. Everyone who’s honest with themselves has known this all along – but it’s taken a panel of Australian judges stating the obvious to pull away the fig leaf and (presumably) force a response.
Edit 20090415: Too much has happened over the long weekend for me to write cogently about given the other things I need to do this week, so I’ll refer yous to the excellent Idiot/Savant, with whose judgements I mostly agree on this matter.
When I heard the Courts ruling I thought “Oh No, another hurdle for Bainimarama to jump over” as he tries to establish a truely democratic system in Fiji. That is if the article I read about the situation on this blog a few weeks/months ago is to be believed. I cannot say I am very impressed with the ‘existing’ system that has control in the hands of the minority Fujians. But I freely admit I don’t follow this matter or know much about it. It is like New Zealand being in the hands of the Maori, as a member of the majority I wouldn’t like that.
That presupposes that Frank Bainimarama wants or intends to establish a truly democratic system in Fiji, to which his actions to date grant no evidence whatsoever. He’s a military dictator who took power by force and has resisted every attempt at democratisation. His stated intentions is an irrelevant smokescreen, and believing them is nothing but wishful thinking.
Whether or not the military rule at any given time, does not change the fundamental issue, which is that native Fijians feel outnumbered and not in sufficient control, within their own country.
Until that issue is resolved to every citizen’s satisfaction, it will remain unstable.
I think that China could play an interesting role here, if it wanted to. It’s had this opportunity ever since the West represented by NZ/Aus decided it didn’t want to play anymore. The more Western isolation you place under Fiji, the more open this opportunity becomes.
For those two reasons I personally think the smarter approach would have been to continue relations, because who is better at resolving colonial-type issues than the colonialist minds and powers? It might not be PC to say so but the British are par excellent at resolving this sort of issue in a peaceful and democratic way. That’s their track record anyway, proven time and again in multiple countries over long passages of time.
LEW … that is the case if you believe in the worst side of everybody … I do not until it is proven. Yes there have been some bad events but I see them as trip-ups along the path to demoncracy.
There is the other argument of painting a person into the corner as painted. The more he is attacked the greater likelihood of him taking that position. The sanctions against Fiji help nobody and are just stupid posturing. I can se why Fuji calls us colonialists, we are acting like them. He knows as well as I do that Fuji has a superior military force to New Zealand, unless we withdraw from other commitments, so santions are just silly name calling. The south Pacific ‘west’ are toothless pussies [tigers] swearing like the cat which comes around and steals my cat’s food and swears at me when I chase it off.
We should wish Tony Blair all the best in solving the ME problem in Palestine and hope British expertise helps the USA in South Asia (Pakistan in relationship to Afghanistan and India).
Re: the latter, have a look at this article that details contacts between Holbrook and Hekmatyar, “…the great hope of all parties as the only Pashtun strongman untainted by al-Qaeda and possibly capable of taking on the Taliban.”
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