Moving Towards a More Multiethnic Fiji Military Forces
Fiji is one of the four Pacific Island Countries (PICs) that have a military force. The Fijian military, the Republic (formerly Royal) Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), has contributed to political instability by overthrowing democratically elected governments on four separate occasions. The first of these coups was in May 1987 and was said to be for the protection of indigenous rights and to avoid the military being used to suppress indigenous ethnic Fijians. The military had underwritten ethnic Fijian (Taukei) underwrote chiefly power against a government that was perceived and portrayed as Indo-Fijian supported and Indo-Fijian dominated. Interestingly enough, the very same military nearly 20 years on overthrew what was largely an indigenous Fijian supported and dominated government. The imposed military-backed government was generally opposed by Taukei (indigenous Fijians). The Fijian military has remained over 99% ethnic Fijian (Taukei) in a multiethnic society. Over the last ten years, there has been further militarization of the country, and although both the military-backed and the post-2014 democratically elected government led by Retired Rear Admiral Vorege Bainimarama have strongly advocated ‘racially’ or ethnically blind policies, the ethnic composition of the military has remained unchanged. This chapter provides a historical background to the Fiji military force’s ethnic composition, its role in political instability and human rights violations, militarization, and the potential for further instability and oppression. It argues that a more multiethnic and gender-balanced military force being more representative of the country’s people is less likely to engage in illegal usurpation of state power.
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