New Fiji military commander says election result will be respected
Fiji’s new military commander says the army will respect the result of the elections later this year, regardless of which party wins.
Brigadier Mosese Tikoitoga says the military has already taken a step back from involvement in politics, and sees its role as protecting and following the new constitution. Brigadier Tikoitoga says the role of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces is to act in the interests of all Fijians and it intends to uphold its constitutional duty to be independent, be above politics and respect the will of the people.
Presenter: Bruce Hill
Brigadier Mosese Tikoitoga, Commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces
TIKOITOGA: The RFMF has made a lot of changes in the last 7 to 10 years eh. We have developed an institution and we helped create the Constitution in 2013. But the biggest role now for RFMF is to ensure that we protect and maintain the sanctity of that Constitution and that’s the priority as we go into the elections of 2014 eh and then support whatever democratic party that comes into to play at that time. That would be the major outlook for the RFMF as we move into the election. Apart from that, everything will remain the same. We have set an annual plan or my predecessor set an annual plan for business and we will continue to work with that annual plan. There is also our obligation to meet with the United Nations on all peacekeeping duties and we have 1,040 soldiers now turning about in three major theatres, in Syria, Iraq and Sinai and we will need to ensure the maintenance of the sustainability of that operation. We begin our rotation into those three mission areas in March, end of this month, our post rotation to Sinai and that continues from April and May and we begin the June rotation for Syria and later on in the year we will rotate our troops in Iraq.
There won’t be any major changes as of now, but to sustain and maintain the operations of the RFMF as we have done from last year and this year.
HILL: You say that the role of the RFMF is to guarantee the changes which have taken place. Does this mean that the RFMF continues to take a role in the country’s political life and if so, what is that role?
TIKOITOGA: Our role is as passed in the Constitution and we will continue to uphold that role, which is given to us in the Constitution. That is the only role we will play in the nation’s future.
HILL: And what is that exactly?
TIKOITOGA: It is protecting the people of Fiji, protecting the sovereignty and people of Fiji.
HILL: Many people have called the interim government a military-dominated government. There are many senior military people serving as senior civil servants. Is that going to continue or will the military take a bit of a step back from that kind of role in future?
TIKOITOGA: Bruce, the military has already taken a step backwards eh. The military force is now intact and back in the barracks. The only people that are left serving is the Commander of the RFMF who holds the dual appointment of commander of RFMF and the Prime Minister. Now he’s given up that appointment, he is now certainly concentrating on his civilian job as the Prime Minister. All other members of the RFMF, that is now working for government, has been released from the RFMF. They no longer part of the RFMF, they are now fully civilianised. Whether they continue there, will be decided by the next government, whether they want to contest the next election is an individual choice for them. But the RFMF is already back in barracks and we do not entangle ourselves with the running of government anymore.
HILL: There have been a number of coups in recent years in Fiji. Do you think you’ll be able to try and get rid of this coup culture that has appeared to be in the military for sometime now?
TIKOITOGA: Bruce, that’s the whole, that’s the pervasive thing throughout the Constitution. Our Constitution if it is carried out, that’s why we said RFMF would like to ensure that that the Constitution is maintained and only and unless the Constitution is carried out to the letter, you can be guaranteed there won’t be any more coups. The Constitution is the prime document for Fiji and it guarantees one vote per person and that in itself will take away or take away anything that will disgruntle a number of the community or a group of the community which would led to your suggestion. But there is no reason that we will go back to that issue, that’s the whole reason why we’ve rewritten our Constitution, to ensure that everybody gets equal rights in Fiji.
HILL: So if there’s an election next year and a party or group of parties that aren’t affiliated with the former commander, Commodore Bainimarama win, what would the army do, would it accept that verdict?
TIKOITOGA: Under the Constitution, we accept that verdict, definitely. We accept that verdict under the Constitution. And like I said, we will protect the Constitution to the letter.
The Prime Minister has done a lot of good jobs in the RFMF. He’s brought us so far and we wish him well for his political endeavour and the RFMF will refocus on its new command and we will make the necessary changes when it is necessary to be made.