Fiji government seeks to allay concerns on military statement

Fiji Minister for Home Affairs and Immigration, Pio Tikotikodua

Fiji’s Prime Minister and the Minister for Home Affairs say the new government’s relationship with the military is good, and that there is no need for Fiji citizens to be concerned.

Home Affairs minister Pio Tikotikodua summoned Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Commander, Major General Jone Kalouniwai to his office yesterday in the wake of a statement the Commander sent to media, in which he noted concerns over “the sweeping changes of the current government to establish a firm transition of power and democratic control as the government of the day.”

In the statement the Commander continued: “The RFMF has quietly observed with growing concern over the last few days, the ambition and speed of the government in implementing these sweeping changes are creating shortcuts that circumvent the relevant processes and procedures that protect the integrity of the law and the Constitution.

“Whilst the RFMF recognises the justifications by the current government to establish these changes, the RFMF believes that trying and failing to democratise in adverse circumstances has the potential to bring about fateful, long-term national security consequences.”

While the Commander did not mention which specific changes concerned him, Minister Tikotikodua later told media that they related to the government’s intention to reinstate workers from airport services provider, Air Terminal Services, who were laid off during the pandemic. He also said the Commander was concerned about appointments to the diplomatic corp. The new government has signalled its intention to recall Fiji’s Ambassadors.

But it is believed that recent statements made by the Attorney General with respect to reviewing the 2013 Constitution also created some consternation at the RFMF.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka says, “If we want to amend the Constitution, we have to follow the Constitution, which means a two-thirds majority in the house and two-thirds on the street.”

Under the 2013 Constitution, if Parliament passes a Bill to amend the Constitution (by a two-thirds majority), the Electoral Commission must also conduct a referendum, and three-quarters of the total number of registered voters must vote in favour of the Bill.

Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka talks to the media yesterday.

A “cordial meeting”

After meeting Major-General Kalouniwai, Tikotikodua said, “I trust the Commander to do the right thing. He has pledged himself today to support the government.”

He said that Fiji needs the parties to work together.

“Our history speaks a lot for itself. He understands that, I understand that. And we want to assure the people that the relationship between the government and the RFMF and especially the commander, is on a good note. There is nothing for the people to worry about. And I want to assure the people of Fiji today and all our investors and all people who are interested in what’s happening in Fiji, we are working well together.”