Colonel Ratu Jone says: It was the mil­i­tary that suc­cess­fully quelled the 2000 re­bel­lion Peo­ple should ap­pre­ci­ate that mil­i­tary men and women sac­ri­ficed to pro­tect Indo-Fi­jians ‘over their own blood and Vanua’

Fiji Sun - - Front Page - NEMANI DELAIBATIKI

The Re­pub­lic of Fiji Mil­i­tary Forces says some peo­ple fail to ap­pre­ci­ate the sac­ri­fices it made for Indo-Fi­jians “over their own blood and Vanua” in 2000.

Chief of Staff Colonel Ratu Jone Kalouni­wai made the re­marks in re­sponse to a state­ment made by Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion Party MP Par­mod Chand in Par­lia­ment.

He sup­ported an ear­lier state­ment by Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama who also crit­i­cised Mr Chand.

(See yes­ter­day’s Fiji Sun – PM to Chand: Where were you in 2000?)

Mr Chand said: “May I re­mind this house that in 2000, the hon­or­able Prime Min­is­ter was the leader of the mil­i­tary forces. He could not con­trol his guns. He is to be blamed for the 2000 coup, not the peo­ple”. Colonel Ratu Jone said the RFMF was deeply con­cerned by Mr Chand’s at­tack ac­cus­ing the RFMF and the PM for be­ing re­spon­si­ble for the 2000 coup.

He said: “It is quiet dis­turb­ing that peo­ple like the Hon­ourable Par­mod Chand has de­cided to for­get the role the RFMF ex­e­cuted to quell the re­bel­lion and up­heaval of 2000. More dis­turb­ing is the fact that he em­phat­i­cally de­cides to blame the very in­sti­tu­tion that brought back sta­bil­ity to this coun­try dur­ing the 56 days of the 2000 in­sur­rec­tion by hard­line

na­tion­al­ist el­e­ments against a Fi­jian of In­dian de­scent Prime Min­is­ter.

“The year 2000 was one of the dark­est mo­ments of our na­tion’s ex­is­tence since in­de­pen­dence.”

2000 coup – In his­tory

On May 19, 2000, one year af­ter be­ing in of­fice as the coun­try’s first Indo-Fi­jian Prime Min­is­ter, Ma­hen­dra Chaudhry was de­posed in a coup led by Ge­orge Speight and sup­ported by some rebel mem­bers of the Counter Rev­o­lu­tion­ary War­fare Unit of the RFMF.

It un­leased a spate of vi­o­lence in sev­eral parts of the coun­try as rebel

iTaukei groups, in sup­port of Speight’s cru­sade for iTaukei po­lit­i­cal supremacy, went on a ram­page, set­ting up road­blocks, pil­lag­ing homes and rap­ing women.

The vic­tims were Indo-Fi­jians. In Labasa, Mr Bain­i­marama said a par­lia­ment group un­der Ratu Naiqama Lal­a­bal­avu took over the mil­i­tary camp and ran­sacked Labasa Town. Ratu Naiqama was one of the eight SVT MPs in Par­lia­ment be­fore the coup.

He is now SODELPA MP and pres­i­dent. Act­ing Prime Min­is­ter Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum also spoke in Par­lia­ment about the atroc­i­ties that were com­mit­ted af­ter the coup.

He said women were raped, some had cas­sava shoved up their vagi­nas.

Others were stripped naked and pa­raded in front of peo­ple and made to walk to cook over fire.

PM query’s Chand’s claims

Mr Bain­i­marama asked Mr Chand where was he when all these were hap­pen­ing. Mr Chand had claimed that they (NFP) had protested and op­posed all the coups in­clud­ing the 2000 coup.

Colonel Kalouni­wai’s re­sponse

In Novem­ber 2000, there was a mil­i­tary mutiny, in sup­port of Speight, at the Queen El­iz­a­beth Bar­racks in Nabua, Suva. Four loyal soldiers and four rebel CRW soldiers died.

Colonel Ratu Jone said: “For 56 days the Chaudhry gov­ern­ment and par­lia­men­tary staff were held hostage, the RFMF to­gether with its Com­man­der stood with the few against ethno-na­tion­al­ism. The rebels were pre­pared to shed blood for this cause and lives of our service men in both the Mil­i­tary and the Po­lice Force were lost the line of duty stand­ing up against an ethno na­tion­al­ist threat that was de­signed to bring about to­tal in­dige­nous iTaukei supremacy and the ex­pelling of Fi­jians of In­dian de­scent.

“His (Mr Chand’s) state­ment be­lit­tles the pro­fes­sion­al­ism and com­mit

ment of our men and women who stood their ground to pre­serve and safe­guard life as the Ge­orge Speight group took over the par­lia­men­tary grounds, pil­lag­ing and rap­ing women and young girls within its walls; caus­ing havoc in the heart of Suva burn­ing ma­jor cen­tres and build­ings and steal­ing at the same time; us­ing brain­washed in­dige­nous young and old men to con­front the mem­bers of the RFMF and gen­eral pub­lic on many oc­ca­sions; try­ing to dis­arm them whilst man­ning check­points

lead­ing up to Par­lia­ment house; force­fully en­ter­ing homes around Veiuto and Do­main steal­ing, threat­en­ing and de­mand­ing food; tak­ing over of the Sukanaivalu Bar­racks in Labasa threat­en­ing Fi­jians of In­dian de­scent by re­tak­ing their leased lands; burn­ing down of the PAFCO on Ovalau; and the re­bel­lious siege of the Kal­abu Fi­jian School in Nas­inu are to name a few. “When the thresh­old of vi­o­lence had been reached,

the de­ci­sion was given to sta­bilise the sit­u­a­tion, it was the RFMF that went in de­ci­sively en­gag­ing these rebel el­e­ments in Vanua Levu, Ovalau, and Viti Levu. It was through the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the RFMF that the whole op­er­a­tion was ex­e­cuted with as min­i­mal col­lat­eral dam­age as pos­si­ble. “Was there a Mas­sacre of re­bel­lious groups? Did the RFMF op­er­ate em­ploy­ing fir­ing squads that killed with im­punity? “No, the RFMF op­er­ated on very strict rules of en­gage­ment, it op­er­ated with a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity where un­like the Rebels they used a coded ‘Op­er­a­tion Moses’ (lead the iTaukei to to­tal Con­trol and Supremacy), and the RFMF ex­e­cuted its coded ‘Op­er­a­tion Prodi­gal Son’ where the in­tent was to bring them back into a sense of re­al­ity that re­quired them to put away racial dif­fer­ences and the need that all races need to work to­gether for the bet­ter­ment of the Coun­try. “The RFMF wishes to re­mind the Hon­ourable Par­mod Chand, that had the RFMF jumped on the Ge­orge Speight Band­wagon, the Hon­ourable Par­mod Chand wouldn’t be hav­ing the very priv­i­lege to sit in that au­gust House as an MP. The Hon­ourable Chand needs to be re­minded that like the mil­i­tary, Of­fi­cers have priv­i­leges but soldiers have rights, where that right is to be led ably.

“Like MPs, they have po­lit­i­cal priv­i­leges that al­low them to speak on the is­sues that safe­guard and gov­ern our na­tion. How­ever, it is the right of the peo­ple who elect them there, that they must ex­ist to ex­er­cise their priv­i­lege for the bet­ter­ment of this na­tion and not ruin it by piggy-back­ing on a sus­pi­cious cause that is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated to bring about hate, dis­trust and po­ten­tially lead to vi­o­lence, pit­ting eth­nic dif­fer­ences against each other for the ben­e­fit of get­ting into power - pend­ing the up­com­ing elec­tions. “Hon­ourable Par­mod Chands state­ment has touched a very deep and sen­si­tive part of the RFMF, ba­si­cally be­cause the im­pact the events of 2000 had on the RFMF i.e, its Of­fi­cers, soldiers, their fam­i­lies and the In­sti­tu­tion as a whole. Many lives were lost, some hon­or­ably whilst others lost their creed as soldiers, many others have been psy­cho­log­i­cally and emo­tion­ally scarred be­cause of how the ac­tions of a few very ir­re­spon­si­ble peo­ple al­most plunged our na­tion back into its dark ages.

“The fact that the men and women of the RFMF sac­ri­ficed so much for the safety of Fi­jians of In­dian de­scent, such words of ac­cu­sa­tion are stir­ring their feel­ings caus­ing much con­cern to now un­der­stand that there are some who share no ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the sac­ri­fices the RFMF made for Fi­jian peo­ple of In­dian de­scent over their very own blood and Vanua.

“To ques­tion why it took the RFMF 56 days to quell the re­bel­lion is an in­di­ca­tion of one’s lack of un­der­stand­ing in con­sid­er­ing the crit­i­cal im­por­tance of the hostages’ safety which was paramount. The de­ci­sions made on that day saved their lives. Had an ir­ra­tional de­ci­sion been made then it would have caused the lives of the hostages to be lost.

“The RFMF is con­cerned that such state­ments by the Hon­ourable Par­mod Chand have dis­hon­ored the sac­ri­fices the mem­bers of the RFMF made for his peo­ple – Fi­jians of In­dian de­scent, how­ever it is some con­so­la­tion to know that de­spite such ac­cu­sa­tions that say­ing that a snake will al­ways shed its skin to be able to sur­vive does speak vol­umes now.

“De­spite these rhetorics of ac­cu­sa­tion, the RFMF will con­tinue to rise above such petty pol­i­tics for the sake of all races and con­tin­u­ally en­sure the over­all Se­cu­rity, Well-be­ing and De­fence of Fiji and all Fi­jians.” Mr Chand said yes­ter­day he had said what he wanted to say in Par­lia­ment.

Re­pub­lic of Fiji Mil­i­tary Forces chief of staff Colonel Ratu Jone Kalouni­wai.

Photo: Vil­imoni Va­ganalau

Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion Party Op­po­si­tion MP Par­mod Chand out­side Par­lia­ment ear­lier this week.

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