Postdate: 28/ 08/ 2007
The open invitation by Ratu Inoke Takiveikata to all those involved in the overthrow of the duly elected government in the coup of December 5 2007 needs to be analysed and put into perspective.
Firstly, one must try and understand what could be the purpose of this advertisement, the back ground and nature.
1) Is Ratu Inoke Takiveikata The Right Person?
Is Ratu Inoke Takiveikata the right person for this role, given his history as the person who gave the order for the mutiny of 2 November 2000.
The mutiny attempt of 2 November 2000 resulted in the loss of life of eight soldiers – three unarmed soldiers were killed by mutineers and five CRWU soldiers were killed by loyalist soldiers. If this mutiny attempt had not been controlled, there would have been further loss of life and the situation could have deteriorated to a civil war. Ratu Inoke Takiveikata’s admission in court that he had requested his backers to mount a takeover of the military camp, prior to being sentenced to life imprisonment on 23 November 2004, is clear indication of his admission of guilt.
The instigation of this mutiny means that Ratu Takiveikata is not a impartial person, he in fact, falls in the category of a perpetrator. That means that Ratu Takiveikata is classed in the same category of perpetrators as Sitiveni Rabuka, George Speight and Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
Ratu Takiveikata therefore, cannot oversee a process of reconciliation as he himself is a stakeholder in the process. The process needs to overseen by an independent person – someone who has not been a perpetrator or a victim in any of the coups and one who is apolitical and is magnanimous.
To issue that open invitation demands of anyone a great deal of sincerity and honesty. As a first step for Ratu Takivekata, he needs to tell the nation that he has been in prison for 31 months for instigating the mutiny.
Could he tell us what has happened in his own life? What is the most significant change that now, instead of participating and supporting coups, Ratu Takiveikata now wants to end the coup cycle?
Tell the nation about it so that people can learn the same lesson.
2) Legality Of The December 5 2006 Events
Legality of the processes since December 5th is before the courts and the courts will decide. Ratu Inoke could well be right that nothing the Interim Administration undertakes will ever be legal. I would go on further and say that the legal processes have never resolved the coups in this country. In any case the courts in the experience of the last 20 yers have not resolved the difficulties which can only be done through a process of consultation where people can let go of their hurts and together identify a way forward.
3) Timing – Why Now?
Ratu Takiveikata has recently been released from prison and the trial for his mutiny-related charges is due to heard before the courts again soon. Therefore, Ratu Takiveikata is still an accused person.
In 2004, Ratu Takiveikata participated in a hastily prepared ‘Reconciliation Week’ from 4-11 October organized by the then SDL-CAMV government. Ratu Takiveikata was a key participant in a matanigasau ceremony where 20tabua was presented to seek forgiveness from parliamentarians held hostage for 56 days after the 19 May 2000 civilian coup.
The matanigasau ceremony was widely regarded as a farce because in spite of the fact that the victims had declined to participate, the ceremony went ahead at huge expense to taxpayers. At that time, Ratu Inoke’s mutiny trial was just a month away and this ceremony was widely seen as attempt by Ratu Inoke and other prominent chiefs, to avoid prosecution for their crimes.
This time around, Ratu Inoke is again proposing reconciliation, prior to a retrial of his mutiny related charges. The question that needs to be asked here is that is the Qaranivalu, Ratu Inoke, again proposing a reconciliation just to avoid being convicted on mutiny related charges by securing amnesty for himself?
As the founding President of the SDL party, Ratu Inoke is demanding elections in 2008 and this could only be because the SDL party needs to come back to power quickly.
The learned Qaranivalu needs to remember that reconciliation cannot be proposed with conditions attached. He needs to declare his own vested interest.
Certainly, Ratu Inoke should not be offering amnesty in exchange for reconciliation. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa proposed reconciliation on the basis of exchange for truth. After hearing all the cases, the South African Commission recommended against blanket amnesty, and instead recommended prosecution of crimes against humanity, wherever possible.
Therefore, reconciliation and amnesty should not be discussed in the same breath. Reconciliation should be on the basis of genuine seeking of forgiveness through admission of guilt and sharing of truth.
It must be remembered that that there cannot be genuine reconciliation without justice. There should be no provision for blanket amnesty. In fact, amnesty needs to be explored on a case by case basis. Certainly, where there has been loss to life, the provision of justice should take precedence over granting of amnesty.
4) National Reconciliation – Charter and the Setting Up Of A National Council For Building A Better Fiji
The Natasiri Provincial Council, Ba Provincial Council, Rewa Provincial Council and Namosi have reportedly rejected the move to garner national reconciliation and prepare a roadmap for building a better Fiji, through consultation with all stakeholders.
Instead, Ratu Takiveikata is proposing a reconciliation process that only aims to reconcile the deposed SDL party and the removed GCC members with the military.
One could ask here what about the rest of the population of Fiji – the members of other ethnic groups, the members of other political parties and the deposed 2000 coalition government who were victims of the 2000 coup.
If Ratu Inoke is genuine about wanting to reconcile, then as a High Chief, he should get back to the Naitasiri Provincial Council and encourage support for the Charter and be ready to participate in the Council of Building a Better Fiji.. The Charter is yet to be produced as is not a ready made formula demanding compulsory acceptance.