No clues on who Fiji's new military head could be
An academic says the announcement that Fiji's PM will stand down as the head of the military is a signifcant step towards elections.
An academic says the announcement that Fiji's Prime Minister will stand down as the head of the military in March is a significant step towards promised elections this year.
Dr Steven Ratuva from the University of Auckland says Commodore Frank Bainimarama's successor is likely to be announced as he steps down, and the regime is being tight-lipped on who that could be.
He told Jamie Tahana that the ultimate decision lies with the President on the advice of the Constitutional Offices Commission - which seems to be made up entirely of the Prime Minister.
STEVEN RATUVA: I think what's going to happen is that he's going to recommend to the president, who will then do the appointment. So from now onwards, according to how they're operating, the position of the commissioner of police is going to go through the commission. And the president will then eventually make the appointment, but he will recommend the name to the president.
JAMIE TAHANA: Do we have any idea what that name would be?
SR: Well, a number of names have been bandied around, but it's probably too early to make any speculation on it because there have been significant changes taking place within the ministry itself - very young officers coming in to take very senior positions. And the cadre of senior officers who've been there for a number of years have all gone. We have a whole lot of new officers coming through. So I think we're probably going to keep it quite confidential at this point in time until the announcement of his resignation from the military.
JT: And these new officers - Frank Bainimarama has been head of the military for 15 years - these new officers would have been under him for their entire career, they would be very loyal to the government, wouldn't they?
SR: I think it's the choice of who he's going to have as a successor? It's going to be based on a number of factors - one is somebody who is able to hold the military together, secondly somebody is going to be non-political and quite loyal in terms of the professional career and somebody who is not going to be swayed by external political influence. So if he becomes prime minister certainly he would want somebody to be loyal to him. Certainly he would need somebody to maintain a sense of stability within the military itself.
JT: In theory, could that possibly be the end of the 30 years or so we've seen of coups in Fiji?
SR: Well, hopefully. Everybody is hoping that will be the end of the coup. But coups are kind of inspired by all kinds of factors, all kinds of forces at play. And of course the military is a very significant player in any coup and it has been a very significant player in all the coups since 1987. So while there are other factors to do with development, to do with ethnic politics, to do with political leveraging and so forth, the military as an institution plays a significant role in coups and therefore if you sort out the military then you're in a position to at least say that the coup cycle can be addressed.
JT: The appointments are made on the advice of the Constitutional Offices Commission. What do we know of this commission? We know it's made up of the prime minister and leader of the opposition, among others, but with no parliament we've got no official leader of the opposition. How have these decisions been made by this commission, if it's not fully made up?
SR: Yeah, see, that's the dilemma at the moment, because while it talks about 'the leader of the opposition', at the moment there's no leader of the opposition. So, really, the prime minister still has a very powerful voice in the process. So until we have a parliament, until we have a democratic system in place, then the whole constitutional provision to do with that commission becomes more viable. At the moment it's going to be simply half-implemented, as it were.
JT: So the prime minister is basically the Constitutional Offices Commission?
SR: One might say, effectively, yeah, that it might look that way.
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