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Former senior Fiji military man says Driti trial is “fear tactics” by regime

December 13, 2013

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum seems to be doing all his bidding at the moment and I don’t think the military likes it”.

A former senior Fiji military officer, Jone Baledrokadroka, says the trial of Pita Driti was a ploy by the regime to drive fear into the heart of Fiji’s soldiers.

Driti was land force commander of the Royal Fiji Military Forces and was convicted last week of inciting mutiny.

He faces a maximum 15-year jail sentence.

Mr Baledrokadroka was dismissed by regime leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama while acting land force commander in 2006.

He told Sally Round the conviction underscores the futility of the military’s intervention in politics and will do nothing for troop loyalty.

JONE BALEDROKADROKA: They will quite anxious at the moment, knowing this could happen to them. As we know, Driti was Frank’s right-hand man in executing the coup of 2006. So here you have his head on the chopping block, so to speak. So what does it say about the remainder of the so-called Frank Bainimarama senior loyalists.

SALLY ROUND: So why do you think this was brought to trial, then?

JB: One could only speculate as to why. I don’t think this was done to endear loyalty amongst the troops. I think it was done to put fear amongst the troops. It sends out a clear message to the military, which is the only constituent as far as Bainimarama is concerned, that he’s been playing to, that you must stick with me. And he needs the troops’ undivided loyalty at the moment. So I think it’s more a fear tactic, trying to drive fear into the hearts of the troops.

SR: Could it also not be read that it’s signalled that nobody is exempt under an independent judicial system?

JB: (Chuckles) Come, come, come, you know? We know very well that the judiciary is all tainted. A primary school kid will tell you that. Them trying their best to show the world that it is independent, I think it’s quite a farce.

SR: What are you hearing on the ground in Fiji about support for the Commodore from the military at the moment?

JB: If you look at the Commodore’s rule since 1999 there’s been six land force commanders. Five of them, including myself, have actually been purged out of the military. So it says a lot about how he actually deals with his colleagues. That should be an indicator to every soldier in the Fiji military, how he actually treats people that are very close to him. So you can imagine how he will treat people that are further away from him down the line. Of course he actually gives out goodies. There’s all these peace keeping allowances and all that. He keeps them all in line. But one has to look at how he has treated all these senior officers. The best and the brightest have left. What you have now are sycophants – people who are there just carrying out Bainimarama’s old whims. You have very junior officers at the moment in very senior spots who don’t have a clue what is happening. They are carrying out the orders of Bainimarama just because Bainimarama is feeding them. So what can I say about the calibre of officers that you have there at the moment?

SR: In the Pita Driti trial there was talk of a plan to kill the attorney general. What are feeling within the military towards the attorney general. Is his apparent influence within the regime something that could cause support for the Commodore to wither in future?

JB: Well, I think it has already. I don’t think any military officer trusts the attorney general and I think he knows that. That’s why he’s guarded like Fort Knox. There’s no love between the military and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, and he knows that and the military knows that. And that’s the predicament that Bainimarama has. How do you reconcile the military and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum? Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum seems to be doing all his bidding at the moment and I don’t think the military likes it.

News Content © Radio New Zealand International; Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM

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