Postdate: 7/ 08/ 2003
The Minister for Home Affairs, Joketani Cokanasiga, has refuted claims that Fiji will not be participating in multinational force in Iraq saying negotiations are still under way. It is clear from Media reports the terms of the Agreement that Mr. Cokanasiga is pursuing are all in favour of the United States. We are being asked to pay $9 million for our troops’ participation and Fiji also assume all the risks, financial and personal for buying ourselves into fighting a growing Iraqi national resistance. The situation in Iraq is getting more dangerous as attacks on US and British occupying forces are increasing every day. US Soldiers are being killed or maimed daily. There is no justification at all for sending 700 Fijian troops and civilians to be exposed to the dangers in Iraq at our own cost! What interest does Fiji have in Iraq to warrant sending 700 troops there to be used by the United States in combat against the Iraqi resistance? The recent bombing by Al Qaeda terrorist of another hotel in Indonesia in which 14 people have been killed and about hundred people injured should make Mr. Joketani Cokanasiga pause about the wisdom of sending our troops to Iraq.
Fiji’s tourism industry is very vulnerable to terrorist attacks and Fiji’s support for the occupation of Iraq will raise our profile as a likely vulnerable soft target for Al Qaeda terrorists. What that would do to our Tourism Industry is imaginable. We can learn from the experience of the Bali bombing last year where 203 people were killed. The tourism-industry in Bali is now dead in the water and it is going to take a long time to revive. The Qarase government is acting like a vassal of the USA international overlord. The fact that the Government has approached bilateral partners such as Australia New Zealand and Japan to fund the cost of sending our troops to Iraq shows that the Fiji Government does not even have the funds to fulfill its part of this Agreement. We doubt that Australia, New Zealand and Japan will agree to provide another extra $9 million a year in Aid to enable our troops to go to Iraq. Such request can only mean reduction in other aid commitments to Fiji from these countries. This cannot be justified because Aid funds already committed or available for other more worthwhile projects in Fiji should not be redirected to the Fiji Military Forces, which already takes up disproportionate slice of the Government budget.
This means that our Aid Fund in the future ($9 million) will be going to benefit the United States which had illegally occupied Iraq. Fiji’s involvement in Iraq makes Fiji a target for Al Qaeda terrorists and that would mean also increased cost of beefing up security in Fiji. Involvement in Iraq will not only risk Fijian lives in Iraq and in Fiji, it is waste of financial resources that could be better spent in Fiji. Australia (Fiji Sun 01.08.03) is on a new security alert as a target for September 11 type attacks. Why should Fiji join such countries that are more likely to be targeted by Al Qaeda? Fiji does not have the resources or the security sophistication of countries such as Australia. The NGO Coalition has also written to the Prime Ministers of Australia, New Zealand and Japan stating our opposition to the diversion of Aid funds to the to the Agreement with USA for Fiji’s involvement in Iraq. Besides, the Qarase Cabinet has been ruled unconstitutional; it therefore had no legal power to conclude such Agreement with the USA. The Coalition is seeking legal advice to test this issue in Court.
Rev. Akuila Yabaki Chairperson NGO Coalition on Human Rights