Free «The Military Coups in Fiji» Essay

The Military Coups in Fiji


 The article The Military Coups in Fiji: Reactive and Transformative Tendencies written by Steven Ratuva addresses the transformation of political regime in Fiji over the last twenty five years. The article thoroughly examines the impact of the military coups on the development of the country. Ratuva highlights the interconnection between this series of coups by defining their dual nature. By now, there have been six coups. There were two in 1987 and 2000 accordingly, while the last two had a time gap of three years between 2006 and 2009. Nevertheless, not a single one can be seen in isolation from another because of a complex political and ethnic dynamic interplay. 

Ratuva researches how the military has evolved into a state institution. He also points out the perception of its role within the scope of the modern state system. The military has undergone the transformation from protecting the interests of indigenous people to defending the multiethnic state.

The military sees the election and establishment of a civilian government as its effective exit strategy. The author of the article raises the question whether this will put the end to the abovementioned cycles of coups. It is crucial that the trajectory of these transformations follows neither accurately configured nor the linear and defined actions. The transformation mainly depends on reactive interaction between pivotal political and ethnic challenges. The pattern which defines the behavior of the militaries and their engagement with civilian politics has faced a number of changes.

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Consequently, all these changes took place in response to the mutual influence of the politics and ethnicity which had provoked acute tension and discord in the region. As the title of the article suggests, all the six coups can be referred to as an interdependent chain of events which is a subject of creating reactive and transformative tendencies.

 Ratuva examines the dual role of the Fiji military as areactive and transformative force. The author defines the term reactive as the ability to use force in response to the threats that are posed by the political system or group. The ultimate goal lies in transformation of the order switching it to the old or alternative one. Ratuva adds that the term transformative refers accurately to this tendency. It describes the process of adjustment the new order according to specific structural and policy changes that all together contribute to the development of a progressive and efficient regime.

Literature Review

The article The Military Coups in Fiji: Reactive and Transformative Tendencies lacks a clear literature review section. Nonetheless, many works of different authors are being mentioned throughout the article and especially in the introduction part.

In order to examine the reactive and transformative tendencies, the author has reviewed a wide range of literature that covers all periods of the coups in Fiji. This allows him to conduct a profound and thorough scientific research.

The analysis of the 1987 coups is based on works of Lawson (1989; 1993; 2008), Lal (1990), Howard (1989), Akram-Lodhi (2000) and others (as cited in Ratuva, 2011). The author states that both of these coups were reactive as they can be described as a confrontation between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians. This led to a significant transformative process which involved a creation of a new constitution to ensure that indigenous Fijians were politically paramount.    

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Ratuva also reviews literature that describes the opposite process. The attempt that followed after the 2006 coup was aimed at undermining the institutional and political dominance of indigenous Fijians. The comparison of these coups allows to determine the common in both cases. While reactive component did not undergo changes and the coups were conducted with the use of force, the transformative purposes did change from opposition to a nonindigenous regime as well as to an indigenous one. Therefore, a dynamic and persistent relationship can be traced between these categories.

The notions of the changing tendencies vastly depend on ethnic politics. The author addresses the works of Lal (1990; 1992), Alley (2000) and Lawson (2008) to study the history of this question (as cited in Ratuva, 2011). Thus, the politics was conducted within the scope of ethnic differentiation under British colonial rule. It was executed at every level of society, including the economy. The postcolonial period can be described as continuity of the same trend whereas the majority of political issues and contestations were completely and intrinsically ethnic based.

This tension continued despite the appearance of multiculturalism. Therefore, in order to maintain stability in state, the only strong, powerful and disciplined institution became in charge with overall responsibility. There were a wide range of complex and interrelated factors that shaped the military accordingly. The author of the article relies on works of Sanday (1989), Halapua (2003), Ratuva (2007), Sutherland and Robertson (2001) in identifying these factors: ethnic politics, traditional military culture, economically depressed development as well as its own self-perception as apolitical protector of the nation (as cited in Ratuva, 2011).There had been a considerable change in this perception. The military was an ally to indigenous Fijians and focused on protecting their interests during the 1987 coups, while the 2000 and 2006 coups turned the military out to be the guardian of multicultural politics. Therefore, it is reckless to make any generalization about the Fiji military’s behavior.

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In order to understand the reactive and transformative tendencies of the Fiji military, it is essential to analyze the specific circumstances of the individual coups.Ratuva argues with researches who suggest that there were only four coups in Fiji. He rejects the notion of variation the success in terms of degrees based on its prolongation in time. The author also points out that because of the subtle nature of several coups, such as the second 2000 and 2009 ones, a significant number of researches did not consider them as coups at all.


The author of the article approaches the problem by analyzing the reactive and transformative nature of the military coups in Fiji. The study was conducted on several levels.

Firstly, historical and political evolution of the Fiji military is being thoroughly reviewed taking into account the assessment study has faced with extensive time constraints.

Secondly, a comparative analysis is being deployed in order to identify the common trends between the military coups in Fiji and some countries of the Third World

Lastly, a thorough examination is being conducted to analyze the dynamics of the military coups in Fiji. With this purpose, it focuses on their responses to arising threats and their contribution towards the national transformation.

The article examines the reactive and transformative nature of the Fiji military and six coups by analyzing their impact on the small multicultural country of 850,000 people.

The Historical and Political Evolution of the Fiji military

A number of dilemmas have raised since the genesis the Fiji military. The author of the article highlights that these dilemmas have shaped the image of the military and the way it perceives itself.

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The first dilemma concerns the reputation of a respected institution and a credible international peacekeeping force, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, its gradual transformation into an instrument of internal repression and coups.

The second dilemma touches upon the issue of contradiction in the military’s actions. On the one part, it has been perceived as a protector of ingenious ethno-nationalism (Baledrokadroka, 2009). On the other part, this policy contradicts the attempt to promote multiculturalism.

Therefore, the Fiji military had to operate within the framework of two antagonistic principles which were the liberal democracy and associated principle of civic accountability alongside with the primordial ethnic and communal loyalty. Ratuva points out that, in this context, the military found itself in the middle of acute strife. 

The ambiguity between the role of the military as a national security institution and the military as an ethnically aligned organization created considerable dilemma even before 1987 (Ratuva, 2011).

Nevertheless, the author of the article states that, over the years, the military went through institutional and ideological transformation which drastically altered its ethno-nationalist image and ideological orientation, a dramatic departure from the original pro-indigenous stance. The military redefined its role and in the process discarded its old ethno-nationalist image and embraced and exerted a new multiethnic one (Ratuva, 2007). Loyalty to Fiji’s multiethnic community rather than to indigenous institutions became the new norm. This caused considerable discomfort amongst the traditionalists within the Fijian political establishment, including the largely Fijian Methodist Church.

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The author of the article draws a final dilemma that needs mentioning. It lies in the way the Fiji military interprets and applies its official guiding principles as a security institution. However, the problem here is that instead of using them as guidelines for national security, the military has used these as an excuse for political interference and regime change. This has been one of the major problems which has haunted Fiji’s political establishment over the years, which is how to keep the military within the defined boundaries of its official responsibilities under control and supervision by a civilian state without overstepping its mark and becoming an autonomous power unto itself (Ratuva, 2011).

Comparison of Diverse Reactive and Transformative Coups

The role of the Fiji military as a protector of the state stability can be compared in many respects to the Third World militaries which have developed in the similar conditions of ethnic contradictions, lagging nations and emerging markets, fuelled by their peripheral position within the global system (Cawthra and Luckham, 2003).

Ratuva conducts a comparative analysis between Fiji, on the one hand, and Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Vietnam, China, Mozambique, South Africa, Thailand and Pakistan, on the other. The common trend involves the emergence of the coups due to the country’s peripheral position within the global economy and the associated underdevelopment, poor governance and leadership, which caused the major instability within the state. Thus, in the chaos of ethnic strife and political instability, the military was seen as the strongest and only organized force with the capacity to maintain national unity. Military intervention carried out under patriotic guises in the name of various ideological and political mottos such as democracy, anti-corruption, liberation or development. In these cases, the military is often seen as an ally and progressive force in national development and nation-building (Ratuva, 2011).

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The article raises the question of difference between the post-colonial militaries and their ability of coup-making. On the whole, it depends on the degree of professionalization, leadership, volatility of the political situation and how strong the state institutions are in maintaining coherence to keep the military in line. Nonetheless, there are certain peculiarities that make every situation unique. Thus, to understanding the political economy of the military is also highly significant in order to come to terms with its political and ideological positioning (Ratuva, 2011).

The cases discussed in the article have a number of similar resonances with Fiji. One of them is that coups do have a transformative nature, whether reactive or proactive, which depends very much on the ideological and political positioning of the military elites and the historical circumstances. The intervention plans of the military coups can be successful depending on a number of factors including the weakening of the state’s capacity by ethnic strife and instability, bad governance and also the self-perception of the military as guardian of state’s stability, its efficient development and continuous progress.

The Dynamics of Coups in Fiji

Ratuva defines the military coups as a series of interlinked events. Despite their peculiar characteristics, these coups are interrelated historically. The pivotal cause of tension and instability in the region has always been ethnic politics. Therefore, the author of the article suggests contemplating these coups as a series of interconnected duality events on a historical and political continuum.

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This series of duality coups has shaped the Fiji society since independence by creating a full cycle of political actions alongside with manifestation of the underlying ethnic, socio-economic, political and ideological controversies(Ratuva, 2007).

The 1987 military coups were significant in a number of ideological and political respects. It led to the establishment of an indigenous-orientated political culture and institutions in Fiji where democracy had become a means for contestation over ethnic control of state power more than a vehicle for political legitimacy and national unity. The ethnic differentiation was reinforced by these coups in a manner not experienced before, although the social, cultural and political divide between the two ethnic groups had existed in various forms and degrees over the years during the colonial and postcolonial periods (Fraenkel & Firth, 2009a).

The promulgation of the new constitution in 1997 marked a major change in the reversal of the ethno-nationalist agenda by establishing a more multiethnic order (Madraiwiwi, 2009).

The tension between the military and the government was more than just an issue of institutional accountability in 2000. The constitutional and legal line of demarcation between the military and the civil state was progressively erased. The government had been pushing its nationalist agenda to mobilize indigenous Fijian support for the 2006 elections (Fraenkel and Firth, 2007). Meanwhile, the tension escalated, it seemed that another coup was inevitable.

The author of the article points out that the return to civilian rule was prompt after the abovementioned military coups. In contrast to this, the 2006 and 2009 coups deeply embedded military control in a way not seen before (Lal, 2009). Apart from the use of coercion, one of the major factors which made this possible was the complex yet close cultural connection which indigenous Fijians have with the military. Over the years, the warrior past became a part of the indigenous Fijian self-identification. Thus, identification with the military culture was still strong despite the possible opposition to the military coup.

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After the events of the 2006 coup, the coup-related blogging thrived into a major communicative industry taking into account the absence of a free media. Cyberspace resistance took place in a safe space where thousands of Fiji citizens engaged in virtual communication (Walsh, 2009).

Thus, a new way of resistance emerged due to the rise of the information and communication technologies in the last decades. It helped to transit the resistance in the virtual sphere. It also contributes to the mass consolidation via an international network. The predictable reaction of the government was to block and close down some accessible web sites to prevent the inevitable spread of the virtual resistance. Therefore, this issue makes a valuable field of research in the future alongside with the thorough analysis and scientific prognostication of future political events based on the explored reactive and transformative tendencies.

The military sees the election and establishment of a civilian government as its effective exit strategy. As for now, the constitutional review process will take place in 2012; meanwhile, the election is scheduled for September 2014 (Ratuva, 2011). 

One of the essential recommendations of the charter is to reform the new electoral system in terms of its establishing a proportional representation alongside with a reduced number of constituencies as well as open rather than reserved seats for different ethnic groups. Similar experience has already been the case in the 1970, 1990 and 1997 constitutions (Fraenkel and Firth, 2009b). As a rule, this new constitution and electoral system will rely on the recommendations of the charter (Dakuvula, 2009). Nevertheless, a certain problem has already emerged since the military has already established conditions for who is to stand or not stand in the elections. This condition creates a paradoxical step on the way towards democracy (Fraenkel, 2009).   











Therefore, the Fiji military defines the election as a way to establish a civilian government. Ratuva raises the question whether this will put the end to the abovementioned cycles of the military coups. A pivotal factor is that the trajectory of the transformations within the society follows neither accurately configured nor defined actions. It mainly depends on reactive interaction between politics and ethnicity.


In his article, Ratuva (2011) makes a deep and thorough study of the historical and political evolution of the military coups in Fiji. Unlike other researches, the author marks out and defines every single coup regardless of its temporal characteristics or subtle nature. A literature review of the researchers showed that the work of the author is comprehensive and profound. The article has contributed to a better understanding of a complexity and interrelation between the crucial events in the history of Fiji.

The author of the article addresses the posed in the introductory part questions in a well organized manner. By reviewing each of the six coups that took place over the last twenty five years, Ratuva identifies their common tendencies. In order to support his evidence, he applies the comparative analysis between the military coups in Fiji and countries of the Third World. In both cases, the conditions for military intervention were based on ethnic differentiation and controversy tensions alongside with the incapacity of the state to maintain these processes effectively. Meanwhile, the military coups in Fiji considerably differed in terms of their reactive and transformative characteristics. The shift in the dominating political sources provoked further instability within the state. Therefore, the tension escalated making another coup inevitable. The article emphasizes that, over the years, the pattern of politics and military behavior has made coups almost predictable.

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The field of the research is valuable due to the pending character of the subject of study. The author of the article examines the complexity of dynamics of Fiji’s ethnopolitical history highlighting its peculiarities.  A clear pattern of duality and interconnection emerges from this pair sequence of the military coups. Ratuva suggests addressing ethnic conflict through political, institutional, social and informal means. In addition, this solution should involve reform of the military which role was significantly politicized. In conclusion, the article addresses the uprising issues of the new century. The persistent and continuous development of the information and communication technologies within the scope of the problem affects its pace of developments in a significant way. Therefore, the article puts a new question contributing to the emergence of a new direction for the future research. 

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