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Fiji: ‘It was stones, now it's molotov cocktails’

In the weeks between late January and mid-March, at least six people in Fiji who could be termed “public opponents” of the country’s military-backed government have been targeted by unidentified individuals who late at night have thrown large stones at their houses and severally damaged their cars and other property.

The victims include two journalists, including the editor-in-chief of the Fiji Times, a trade unionist who is the head of the new Movement for Democracy, a prominent businesswoman, a former labor minister, and a lawyer who represented two men charged with planning to assassinate Voreqe Frank Bainimarama, the country’s Prime Minister who came to power in a December 2006 military coup.

Questions swirl regarding the perpetrators’ identities. Many stoning victims contend the attacks are politically motivated and a few claim to know who did the damage, even silently pointing a finger at Fiji’s government for either tacitly sanctioning the attacks or, perhaps, planning them. The police have investigated the attacks, but so far have come up with no tangible information. Many political bloggers called for Frank Bainimarama (or someone in the government) to deplore the attacks, which they claim are attempts to intimidate those critical of the regime.

Condemnations became more vociferous Monday after police reported that three unidentified men threw bottles filled with kerosene and sugar at two separate houses in Suva, the country’s capital. Only one bomb ignited at one of the houses, but no one was hurt. (The second house suffered a broken window.) The victims include Fiji Times editor-in-chief Netani Rika and former senior army officer Colonel Sakiusa Raivoce, a solider in Fiji’s army who currently runs the military recruiting firm Global Risks Services. Both men had rocks thrown at their houses a few weeks back.

Bainimarama, the head of the country’s military, came to power claiming to rid the country of what he saw as debilitating corruption and Fiji's long history of divisive racial and religious practices in the political sphere. (Fiji’s population is largely split between indigenous Fijians, who make up nearly 60 percent of the population, and Indo-Fijians, the ancestors of workers brought to the country by British colonial rulers to work on sugar and copra plantations.) On top of this racial disunity at the political level, many of Fiji's political leaders have open contempt for each other, often using the court system to force consensus. Writing about improvements in the Fiji media, journalist David Robie argued in the Cafe Pacific blog, “If the current regime and previous Fiji governments had spent even a fraction of their legal bills on sustained and committed media training and education in the country, then substantial progress would be made.”

Even nominally pro-government bloggers (and forum posters) have criticized Bainimarama for remaining silent regarding the attacks or being too weak to stop them.

real jack at the Fiji Board Exiles forum argues these attacks shows the military regime cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens:

FB has not condemned the attacks – nor has anyone from the millitary. if this state of affairs continues and gets worse they should not be surprised if the UN and the Commonwealth decide to not participate in the Presidential Forum and the whole thing falls apart – and then the whole process is scuttled and then the country descends into anarchy – the longer this state of affairs continues the more UNSTABLE the situation will become – it was stones, up until last week, now its molotov cocktails – next it will be guns and then nitro fertilizer homemade bombs.

this thing starts off small – and it gains its own momentum – and as people get emotional and upset they end up not giving a damn – that callous attitude by the regime only feeds into that sense of frustration that will translate into anger and will end up scuttling whatever achievements achieved todate.

[Here is some background on the upcoming Presidential Political Dialogue Forum, which could lead Fiji to elections after the country’s race-based electoral code is modified, Bainimarama hopes will force parties to reach across racial lines for support, limiting the power of nationalist parties.]

Alohabula1, also from Fiji Board Exiles, argues the government is not living up to its promises:

Bottom line -if FB's motive for taking over the government was for the security of the nation, THEN it follows that he MUST squelch this kind of behavior in the bud and catch the perpetrators.
Given that scenario, it is not that easy to catch whoever is doing this, its not like they leave a lot of evidence in their little cowardly drive bys, but FB and the Police had better make a concerted effort to try if they want to keep up any kind of appearances and do their job of securing the nation.

While the stonings were going on, much of Fiji’s political blogosphere have claimed the rock attacks were perpetrated by members of the country’s military. With molotov cocktail attacks now reported, Intelligentsiya continues that charge.

Anarchy has peaked in our shores.

While many already have strong but silent suspicions about who exactly is behind this, one would be hard-pressed to ignore the fluorescent coated trail of crumbs leading all the way up to QEB.

[QEB= Queen Elizabeth Barracks, the national headquarters of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces in a suburb of Suva.]

Raw Fiji News, who before correctly predicted that Raivoce is on the “stone throwing hit list,” maintains the ratcheting up of intimidation tactics have now put lives in danger.

Two families,Fiji Times Editor, Netani Rika and retired outspoken soldier, Sakiusa Raivoce, were attacked in the early hours of the morning by some Fijian men armed with home made bombs.

These are families with children and it is indispeakable to ever think that Frank has chosen to go down this cowardly road to try and intimidate people.

How dare you Frank to try and burn the children of Fiji.

We say, stand up Fiji and protect your children now!

These unrepentant few must be stopped once and for all!

Before the molotov cocktail attacks, the government had issued a single statement, claiming the police were investigating the vandalism against individuals. It did little to fend off criticism in the blogosphere. (After the molotov cocktail strikes were reported, the government announced it will consider providing state security to the victims of strikes.)

Yet, media watchdog Crosbie Walsh, an academic formerly living in Fiji and now residing in New Zealand, argues the Bainimarama-regime has nothing to gain from these attacks, especially as it has begun meeting with political parties to attempt to set a roadmap for holding elections.

From Fiji: The Way It Was, Is and Can Be:

[I]t defies logic that the Government is behind these attacks at this critical time when it is seeking the support of political parties in advance of the President's Political Dialogue Forum. If the hooligans were anti-Government, their actions could help to derail the Forum. If they were pro-Government, their actions give anti-Government elements the high moral ground. Either way, their actions do not help the Forum process.

It's also worthy to point out, I'd argue, that no high ranking member of SDL, the governing party forced out of power during Fiji's December 2006 coup, have been targeted in the vandalism or by those throwing molotov cocktails. A discussion on that lies here.

Let’s end with a little ditty from Loyal Fijian.

A little background: A volcano erupting near Tonga last week may have had something to do with an 7.9 magnitude earthquake Friday, March 20 that lead to fears of a tsunami heading directly for Suva, prompting the government to close schools and send civil servants home. A lovo is a traditional earthen oven in Fiji used for baking anything from pigs to chickens to fish, all cooked over hot coals or rocks. The stoning perpetrators used lovo stones to vandalize the victims’ houses.

Wow wee, its has been an eventful week
Rumours and speculation were flying thick

Well, so much happening, not good for one weak of heart
I guess from the beginning is a good place to start

Netani Rika got a rude awakening
Somebody stoned his car, now thats a naughty thing

Then Attar Singh heard a loud bang, Oh my God, Oh Nooooo
Hey, shouldn't these stones be in the lovo

Now Now, before you accuse Loyal Fijian of justifying these acts
Take a deep breath, lets just look at the facts

Lovo stones belong inside the earth, under the fire
If they end up in peoples cars, now that means the situations getting dire

Our sympathies with Attar and Rika
Loyal Fijian stands for speaking your mind without favour or fear

Then there was the underwater volcano going off near Tonga
Tsunami is the last thing we need, if you see the big waves be sure to honker

The shops were closed, public servants took a break
Yes sir, count me in, a day off, I'll be happy to take

Isnt it funny, how we do this every time
Make it so funny and make it rhyme

5 comments

  • Vinaka John,

    It ironic that this line ‘race based elections code’ is so conveniently argued by many journalists, academics etc & more so those that support this regime’s line of actions who claims this is the root of all evils in Fiji.

    We say think again. Because it is just another excuse to ‘Rape Fij’, claim power, Disrupt the livelihood of people, De-Construct Fiji at its core while the Coup perpetrators enjoyed the perks of Power that comes with it.

    The otcome Fiji & its people are deprive of a peaceful existence & growth for its already ailing Economy.

    Fiji’s History as written in (The Pacific Way) by the Late former President & High ranking Chief Ratu Sir KKT Mara where he took the Fiji Delegations including, former leader of Opposition & a well Diverse group of senior Politicians (i.e First People/Indigeneous Fijians, Europeans, Indans). The team arrived in England with their credentials as to their proposal on a pathway for Fiji prior Independence. One of these was the Electoral Voting system which at the time had been closely scrutinised & consensus reached by the Fiji delegations & the Commonwealth Team in UK as to be the model that will work for Fiji. Prior to this , intensive research & travels had been done by Ratu Sir Kamisese to map out the closest model that could fit Fiji. Considerations were given to the fact that Fiji had the Indentured labour system & Fiji looked to those Commonwealth countries as was the case in West Indies etc

    My point is, considering the depths of Research, Dialogue by highly skilled Fiji Members of Parliament at the time & who were from different Ethnicity in Fiji added the painstaking task of finding this model and took it with them to England where they were met with further questions & deliberations. How then can all these so called ‘experts’ blogging now & writing articles with their poison pen or poison fingers on keyboards saying its all wrong & unfair.

    Its time the ever so silent Indigenous Fijians cry “Foul Play” to all these people adding fuel to the fire!!

    In conclusion, all those ‘Hard Efforts’ for building Fiji by Fiji’s forefathers & those hardworking Fiji leaders of Fiji irrespective of what Ethnic background, who helped brought Fiji to be on par with the rest of its neighbors & the world has just gone to blazes all because of a handful of ambitious & self centred group of Fiji people bent on destroying Fiji..

  • Thanks for the comment, Adi.

    You make some good points. However, I’d like to clarify my position. In my posts I refer to the current government’s desire to change the electoral code because that’s what they claim they want to do. If they wanted to change Fiji’s flag, I’d talk about that. It’s my job to inform people.

    I do think this is a great time for the blogosphere covering Fiji to dig in and really debate these issues — electoral code, constitution, etc. — because no one provides a better alternative viewpoint than bloggers. The press in Fiji (and abroad) only speak to politicians or NGO heads, who have their own agendas to get across. But it’s the bloggers (and everyone else) who have to live with their decisions.

    Thanks again.

  • Vinaka John,

    Whilst I appreciate and respect your postion in this – what I would like to ask is “What Fiji government ??”. Fiji at this point in time is declared a Failed State by the world. Military Dictatorship or ‘Jungle Rule’ is the name of the game which has bedevilled Fiji for the last decade on & off!!

    To debate while these Military Juntas are sucking the very essense of what sustains Fiji be it Economy, the people, Land, susbsistence farming, sugar cane farming, Fiji’s Ethnic Culture, The Diverse Community that make up the rest of Fiji, Fiji’s Rule of Law or its Judicial system, Fiji’s Political balance i.e Elected Political Parties, Tourism & so forth can almost be equated to that of the famous movie ” Titanic”. The bottom part of the ship is underwater while the tip is about to be submerged too but left jutting in mid air!! Locals in Fiji are witnessing these Juntas driving around or changing their vehicles from the little cars they once had to Pajeros or four wheel drives!!

    That is my point as to where Fiji is at at this point in time. There are of course bloggers/journalists/academics & the likes that enjoy to see Fiji tip over & be totally submerged however for some they will enjoy the perks of power while it lasts. There are some out there who are propping up this Jungle regime in Fiji and they too will be exposed. So mark my word.

    Voreqe Bainimarama & his current regime should just ‘tools down’ & go back to the Naval ship & the Army barracKs & do the duties they are best at ‘Protecting Fiji & its people’ not hellbent in destrying Fiji.

  • Bromfieldgirl

    Adi,

    I liked your symbolism of the Titanic, barely able to stay above water, with any major event causing it to sink into anarchy.

    But I also agree with John that while it is a military dictatorship, Fiji does have a government, and bloggers need to open this issue for everyone to see. I am only just learning about this situation, and am going to look around for more blogs and conversations on the matter. The fact that molotov cocktails are being thrown at innocent people is one thing, but that government is barely responding to it is unbelievable.

    My question is, how did the perpetrators get these people’s names? I mean, they didn’t burn the houses of the two men who planned the assassination of Bainimarama, they went after their lawyer. I mean, let’s look at the victims, \ two journalists, including the editor-in-chief of the Fiji Times, a trade unionist who is the head of the new Movement for Democracy, a prominent businesswoman, a former labor minister, and a lawyer.\ Maybe I’m just being naive, but none of these people seem to be obvious targets. They’re more of a stretch to see as \political opponents\. So, why would they be chosen? It makes me think, despite the ramifications with the Forums, that the government, or someone in it, is the mastermind behind these attacks.

    Could this be the start of a new coup? Based on what I’ve read so far about Fiji, it is in the country’s nature to overthrow the government every time something goes wrong. Even Bainimarama has said that holding elections will not stop this. Could someone inside the government be giving out names of people to be victimized and planning out a coup right now? If the vandals have already gone from stones to molotov cocktails, I fear for the people of Fiji. This doesn’t seem like the type of issue that will be resolved without blood.

  • luvfiji

    Bromfieldgirl,
    To answer your questions, firstly, you got that one right about the ‘titanic ‘ analogy. Thats where Fiji was at at the time of writing now the tip is gradually submerging if you followed the most recent turn of events, details I will not enter into as it brings tears to those of us that love Fiji.

    Government – After 2006 Coup – there was & there is no government as all had been illegal as per the most recent Munday Thursday Court rulings. However, the machineries for a government are in motion minus the legality of running it by the illegal regime. They do not have the legal mandate to do so.

    The issues you have mentioned are quite minced which may perhaps be that you have just got to know about the Fiji saga and may need to read more into it to really get a good grip of how the Fiji situation works. You have to know the culture and you have to have read some writings by bloggers on Fiji issues, then only you will be able to get up to speed with the ‘unspoken language’ of whats happening there.

    The coup perpetrators & the coup leader himself are the ones that know of these thugs who are stoning houses and throwing Molotov Cocktails bombs to individuals & their families who happen to hold key positions in certain companies or organisations that do not agree with the Coup regime hence their being targetted.

    The story of Fiji has many twists & turns and there are lots of underground intelligence on both sides of the fence so names of people get to the top people very quickly. There is almost no where to hide as the current regime has their ears & eyes on every corner streets or even in a social gatherings & has een filtrated Church groups so people have to be cautious who they speak with so as not to say too much. Bainimarama has caused a major divisions in Fiji at all levels and across the racial divides. Some academics & experts have said its to clean up the wrongs from early Colonial days. This is total ‘bull crap’ as Fiji could have entered dialogue on these dragged out issues in a more non violent and non threatning way, certainly not via Coup Coup maniacs.

    Your last question, really, Fiji was & is in ‘Coup Mode’ fullstop. We have gone beyond the explanations of elections etc the fact is Fiji is in a state of Anarchy & chaos. Fiji does not have what they call in native Fijian. “Sa sega na Lawa ni Vakatulewa”.

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