Fiji Coup Supplement
26 July 2000
FIJI: towards guerilla warfare
by Ross Nepia Himona
As the hostage takers, the President and the military haggle over the composition of the new interim government in Suva, the country seems, from an outsider's perspective, to be slowly slipping towards a form of low-level guerrilla or revolutionary warfare.
The fourth player in this drama, the deposed prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, after initially preaching reconciliation, now sits on the sideline, but appears to be deliberately raising the heat as well, demanding the reinstatement of his government, and making suggestions about a government-in-exile. The prospect of a three-sided revolutionary struggle is mind-boggling. Chaudhry and his supporters would possibly be the only ones to win from that situation, if he could convince the United Nations and the Commonwealth that the situation warranted outside intervention.
Wittingly or unwittingly, Chaudhry does seem to have embarked on this extremely dangerous strategy, backed by the Indian dominated trade union movement. Backed also by well organised and vocal Indo-Fijian "democratic" lobby groups in their safe havens in Britain, Canada, Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand. If he raises the heat too much, and bloodletting ensues, his own people will be first to bear the consequences.
Chaudhry and his political cronies would be the only winners from this strategy, and his own Indo-Fijian people would be the big losers, paying for his political ambitions with their lives.
The attempted coup d'etat was not a clean and fast takeover of power, mainly because the coup makers could not command the support of the military and the police. Without control of military and/or economic power, they had no chance of seizing political power. It moved therefore onto one of the classic tactics of the guerrilla - the use of hostages to gain political advantage.
The spread of hostage taking, roadblocks, the seizure of police and army posts, and occupation of strategic facilities are again the tactics of the guerrilla. The aim of the guerrilla is not to dominate the physical landscape, but to dominate the mindscape, by winning the hearts and the minds of the people. All guerrilla actions depend for their success on the adoption of popular causes, the fashioning of effective rhetoric and propaganda, and on the compliance of the media to publicise the cause.
Building support for the cause within the police, the military, and other governmental institutions is another classic guerrilla tactic.
Sitting in the middle of this, it seems that the military has the only real understanding of what is happening. They will understand that strong military or police action will not end the crisis, and that history shows that military action usually plays into the hands of the guerrilla, who is able to propagandise any military reaction as being against the "people".
The military knows too, that they must avoid, if at all possible, an orgy of bloodletting. Bloodletting is contagious, shown by numerous recent examples in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East over the last 100 years. Ordinary peaceloving people, including the so-called civilised peoples of Europe, quickly shed that veneer of civilisation when the passions are raised.
The guerrilla fights a psychological war, and the only way to defeat him is to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the people; or to remove all the key leaders without turning them into martyrs.
In the 1950s, the British in Malaya found a creative way to defeat the insurgent. It is often thought that they won that revolutionary war by military action, or by winning the psychological battle. The truth is that they won it by bribing the insurgent leaders with gold.
British intelligence targeted key insurgent leaders, and offered them large amounts of gold to turn on their own supporters. Once turned, those leaders led Commonwealth troops to their safe havens, and were complicit in the defeat and death of their own soldiers. The British re-settled the turncoats as prosperous businessmen in other colonies, such as Hong Kong. It was a coldly calculated and pragmatic strategy, and it worked.
The combined US, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand intelligence community know who the key insurgent leaders in Fiji are, having compiled lists of supporters to be the targets of so-called smart sanctions. The strategy is decidely unsmart, and serves more to satisfy the egos of frustrated European politicians, than to promote the resolution of the crisis.
The smart strategy would be to provide a pot of gold to bribe the leaders of the Fijian revolution, to make them rich beyond their wildest dreams, and to re-settle them in the USA, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. Instead of banning them from our countries, they should then be banned from leaving us.
The indigenous Fijian military and political establishment could then get on with slowly developing a system of governance that satisfies the needs and aspirations of both Fijian and Indo-Fijian citizens, and removes the causes of revolution.
The real problem with this strategy however, is that stupid Australian and New Zealand policians would demand an unbearable price for their intervention. In league with Mahendra Chaudhry, they would demand that Fiji return to a Eurocentric form of governance, based on their own prejudices and values. This would only ensure that another indigenous revolution would arise, with a new set of leaders, sooner rather than later.
Fiji Coup Supplement