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Fiji’s global peacekeeping role defies Anzac sanctions

Fiji peacekeepers

Fiji peacekeepers ... "UN has to ponder over is whether its own peacekeeping missions have become a training ground for internal political intervention and repression". Photo: UN

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Heath Moore

Despite military and diplomatic sanctions against Fiji by New Zealand, Australia and the Commonwealth, the Fijian military is still committed to peacekeeping for the United Nations.

Fiji’s continued involvement has been highlighted after the recent the death of a Fijian soldier peacekeeping for British forces in Afghanistan.

Dr Steven Ratuva of the Auckland University Centre for Pacific Studies believes Fiji’s involvement in United Nations peacekeeping is important to Fiji as a nation, but says skills learnt overseas are not being used well in Fiji.
“Fiji’s overseas peacekeeping operations have benefitted ordinary Fijian families through remittances, and for many soldiers it has finetuned the soldier’s professional skills as peacekeepers and their consciousness about the importance of peace in society.”

“However, it’s sad that the same skills they have learnt in active duty have been deployed at home in coups.

“The reality is most soldiers are reluctant participants in internal political intervention since they are simply following orders by their commander… To many it’s a matter of bread and water.”

Moral issue
Dr Ratuva also says that the moral issue the UN has to ponder over is whether its own peacekeeping missions have become a training ground for internal political intervention and repression.

The president of the Fiji Club of New Zealand, Alton Shameem, says the overseas experiences Fijian soldiers have can help with political issues in Fiji.

“It’s good for Fijian soldiers to go to different countries where they are training.

“Every country has different ethnic groups and they’ll see firsthand what’s happening.

“Fiji is a multicultural country and currently race and religion divides the country so it’ll give the soldiers tools to deal with it.”

Despite military and travel sanctions enforced on Fiji from New Zealand and Australia, Shameem says they should support Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and his “move toward democracy”.

‘Good democracy’
“Fiji is trying to make it a good democracy based on equal rights.

“That’s what Frank Bainimarama wants to do: Equal rights, one person, one vote, regardless of ethnic group or race.

“No one in Fiji is protesting or running around with guns, the people are happy.”

The UN and Commonwealth have requested Fijian soldiers to help peacekeep in the next mission to Syria.

Dr Ratuva says the UN must be happy with Fiji’s situation to continue requesting military assistance.

Experts provided
“The UN itself has a direct hand in assisting Fiji in the election through provision of experts so it may have been convinced that elections will take place.

“The fact Australia is no longer pushing for Fiji’s non-participation may have also encouraged the UN.

Fiji has contributed to United Nations peace-keeping since 1978 and their participation predates all four military coups the country has had since 1987.

The regime says it is planning democratic elections for 2014.

Heath Moore is a final year journalism major on the Bachelor of Communication Studies programme at AUT University.

1 comment:

  1. Geoff, 26. May 2012, 12:51

    Alton Shameem is related to the Shameem sisters who were public supporters of the Military Regime and Coup of 2006.

    Not exactly who I would go to for any unbiased opinion on whether or not the FIji Army is a “good thing” for Politics in Fiji.