Fiji Coup Supplement


9 June 2000


Transcript: 'Face the Nation' on TV1 8/6/00. (First Part)
courtesy of John Miller


Linda Clark: "Good evening and welcome to "Face the Nation". Tonight, most of us watching the growing violence and rebellion in the Pacific..we watch and we worry. Some Maori watch it and celebrate. Maori, like Tame Iti who went all the way to Suva to congratulate George Speight, may say that it's legitimate, that an armed take-over is what the Crown inflicted on Maori in the 1800's..tit for tat..Maori Sovereignty is a crucial and most difficult issue for New Zealand but how far will Maori go and how do we talk about it without inflaming racial tension? Tonight, the activists, the moderates and those opposed to Maori Sovereignty all face the nation. And joining me first in our Auckland Studio is a Maori activist, who went to Fiji to see George Speight,lawyer, Anthony Sinclair. Also with me is another supporter of Maori Sovereignty, Maori historian, Dr Ranginui Walker. Good evening to both of you."

"Anthony, let's start with you. When I look at George Speight, I see a terrorist, I see a thug, I see a bully, I see a man willing to put a gun to the head of hostages...what do you see?

A.S. "Well I think you are absolutely correct if you look at your media and the reporters who have been over there, in particular from Television One, because that's how they have portrayed this man."

L.C. "So he is not a hostage taker?"

A.S. "..And in terms of Tame Iti and myself being called activists, and going to support George Speight,..completely wrong. We never went..."

L.C. "Let's go back to the first point. George Speight has taken hostages by gunpoint. Is that right or wrong?"

A.S. "We never went to support George Speight, one individual, we went to support the indigenous peoples of Fiji, the Fijian people, in order to give them unconditional assistance and help to relieve the tension that Fiji is under at present."

L.C. "But you sat at a press conference side by side with George Speight and you allowed him to call you his 'Maori brother'."

A.S. "He is one of our Pacific brothers and sisters and that is why we went there because we are part of the Pacific and they are our Pacific brothers and sisters."

L.C. "Do you support his actions though, do you support the use of arms, for instance?"

A.S. "Let me put it this way, George is one man. George is not operating on his own with a small band of gunmen. George has a lot of Fijian support and when you analyse the situation wherein the Fijian people believe that the Fijian government, the Indian-domianted government no longer represents their interests, that maintain power only through the might and threat of military force, then I think that the people have the legitimate right to stand up and take over and topple the government.."

L.C. "So the use of arms was legitimate?"

A.S. "The use of arms in a criminal sense is not legitimate and the taking of hostages is definitely not acceptable but in a political armed uprisng and revolution which is what you have in have secretaries, school teachers, people from the bush coming together and overthrowing the government, yes."

L.C. "Well I guess, if we go back to the context of saying 'this is political', Hitler would have said that gassing 6 million Jews was political and he had widespread support at the time!"

A.S. "I am talking about Fiji and I think we should really stick with Fiji and the Pacific region because that is the situation that we are addressing tonight and it's a regional issue - the Pacific is going to have lots and lots of problems if we don't address them, if we isolate Fiji, if we keep away from Fiji, if we make inflammatory statements, the whole Pacific region, I'm afraid, is in for big, big trouble."

L.C. "Dr. Walker, do you accept that when Pakeha look at this and they see some...we might call them activists, they might call themselves something else...but going and sitting alongside George Speight, that they are going to take that as support for the actions of George Speight."

R.W. "No, I think that they went there to show solidarity with the indigenous people of Fiji. This is one thing that people don't appear to understand when they harp on about this ideology of democracy and I find  [NZ Foreign Minister] Goff rather tiresome. Democracy is fine if you live in a homogeneous society and you are all British and you are all Pakeha, but we don't live like that nowdays. We indigenous people are part of the equation and they have always been the outvoted minority in this so-called democratic system and they are only just beginning to address that situation under MMP where we now have more Maori in Parliament."

L.C. "But surely you wouldn't support oppressing one group of people just to build up another because if you talk about the Fiji example, I mean, what Speight is talking about is limiting the rights of the Fijian Indians in order to embrace the rights of indigenous Fijians."

R.W. "No,I think it is much more complicated than that. You have the problem of the urban poor, the rural poor and those people are taking advantage of this overthrow of the government to [.?.] and to pillage and to burn and so it is a very complicated situation now in Fiji."

L.C. "Are there parallels here though? I mean for Maori watching the wave of kind of ethnic agression if you like, or a sort of assertiveness in the Pacific.."

R.W. "Well, I think if you were to look at the Soloman Islands, Fiji and Bougainville, they are all in the same mould. Now, we as New Zealanders belong to that. We have had a revolutionary overthrow of legitimate power of Chiefs in the 1860's, an armed revolution by the Crown and I find it quite reprehensible that some of our constitutional lawyers argue that that revolutionary overthrow in time becomes legitimate! Further down the track, that kind of analysis would suggest that, if, in the future, Maori decided to do what Rabuka did or Speight has done, in time that too would become legitimate. I personally find that quite reprehensible.

L.C. "Do you think they will do that, though? I mean, you talk about the frustration of the Fijians and I look at New Zealand..there's some young dispossessed Maori in this country who are pretty frustrated."

R.W. "Absolutely, and they are the ones who drive the Tino Rangatiratanga, the Maori Sovereignty movement. They are the ones who flock to the hui that were called by the late Sir Hepi Te Heuheu. You know, when you have a thousand people turning up - but they are such a disparate collection of people that it was very hard to get unanimity and to draw some conclusions and resolutions that everyone would abide by, and so with the passing of Sir Hepi, that movement has kind of gone into recess."

L.C. "And yet,I hear just in the last few days, we've been contacted by members of what sounded like a new group to me, a Maori Republican Army. Do you know anything about those guys?"

A.S. "I know nothing about them."

L.C. "What do you want then, when you look at the New Zealand situation and compare it to what is happening in Fiji, what is it precisely that you would have happen here?"

A.S. "Just before we move on to that, I think the Fijian issue has severe ramifications for us right through the Pacific and if the Fijian situation is not addressed in a moderate, negotiated, meaningful way, the violence that is likely to happen there, civil war will spill over into other parts of the Pacific. No doubt about that."

L.C. "What does dealing with it in that way mean, though? Do we say to Speight: 'Okay, you win, it's okay to have hostages'?"

A.S. "Hang on, the people with Speight, everyone's asking who is behind Speight, the people with Speight are the very people who were set up by Rabuka to act as a counter-revolutionary force[1], they call themselves 'the First Meridian Patrol'. I mean, they are highly trained, highly sophisticated - the elite of the SAS. They have actually taken off their army uniforms and put on the indigenous clothes and they are ready and prepared to fight an indigenous Fiji. Their captain [Ilisoni Ligairi]..he's trained in the SAS in Britain. I mean, these are people that are prepared to go all the way for indigenous rights. This sort of action taken has been told to me by them in this way: 'that structures in government are secondary toward our loyalty and allegiances to the people'."

L.C. "When they say structures are secondary, are they talking about human rights are secondary, democracy is secondary?"

A.S. "No,no, they are talking about a government. A government is secondary to the welfare and the long-term well being of the people. They have a cultural and traditional indigenous tie to their people; to the government, it is secondary."

L.C. "Do you hear this kind of frustration and alienation, I guess is the word, does this apply to this country?"

R.W. "Well, not to the same extent. There are sufficient people penetrating high echelons of learning, state departments, becoming part of the structures that I think there is only a remote possibility of things deteriorating to the point of revolution."

L.C. "Except that one of the things in Fiji, I guess that we have seen, is that tension between the young Fijian and their elders the [Great] Council of Chiefs. There has been a real palpable tension and you see that here."

R.W. "And this is why I think it is counter-productive for Australia and New Zealand and other countries to lean on [Commodore] Bainimarama and suggest that sanctions would be imposed whereas the Fijians are still trying to work out in their own indigenous way how to come to a peaceful resolution."

L.C. "But we are a world citizen and if you don't say to Speight and to the military there that this is not acceptable to us, we are endorsing it"

R.W. "That's true, but in a way, we are being hypocritical. We were very slow to go to the aid of East Timor."

L.C. "Okay, stay with us, we will take a short break. When we come back, more discussion, this time with some moderation and some of those people opposed to Maori Sovereignty, come back in a minute..."

[Commercial Break]                  (Second Part not transcribed)

Footnote:[1]: The Counter-Revolutionary Warefare Unit.


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