Postdate: 11/ 10/ 2003
(Published in the Fiji Sun, 11th of October, 2003)
I refer to the interview of Lt. Colonel Sakiusa Raivoce in hich he has critised me for the position that the NGO Coalition on Human Rights has taken regarding the illegal recruitment of our territorial and reserves army personnel by the Company he represents, Global Risks Strategies. At the outset I must say that the NGO Coalition on Human Rights is not opposed to Fijian soldiers servings overseas, including Iraq. But this must be done within the ambit of the laws that govern the activities of the Fiji Military Forces here and overseas. Our legal opinion from a lawyer who is a member of the NGO Coalition on Human Rights supports my earlier statements to the press that Mr Raivoce and the Company that he represents are in breach of the Fiji Military Forces Act in recruiting members of the territorial and reserve forces for involvement in the present illegal occupation of Iraq by the U.S., British and other supportive forces. Mr Raivoce should have watched a recent BBC International News programme where a number of prominent United States arms inspectors in Iraq were interviewed. They have stated categorically that the invasion and occupation of Iraq is illegal and that the USA and other occupation forces have already “lost the war” in Iraq and in the USA. The US Army occupation forces continue at great cost to the U.S.A. in more lives lost and possible financial bankruptcy of the USA Government. $87 billion being asked of the US Congress to approve now will be resisted and President Bush is well on the way to losing office, having lost the support of the US public because of his Administrations’ lies about the supposed threat that Iraq posed to the world. I have been criticised by Mr Raivoce and others for labelling Global Strategies as a mercenary company. That is what it is. The Oxford Advanced Dictionary has these two meanings of the word mercenary: “Mainly concerned with making money or gaining some personal advantage”, “Soldiers trained to fight in a foreign army”. Global Strategies has recruited our soldiers and plans to recruit a further 600 as mercenaries for a mercenary purpose. But what is worse is that it has done so and continues to do so in breach of the Fiji Military Forces Act and regulations. The Spokesman for the FMF, Lt Neumi Leweni did admit this on the Fijian Radio talkback Programme at which we were both interviewed last week on Wednesday 1st October 2003. He said I was correct in my explanation of the legal requirement but only expressed the hope that the soldiers’ long absence from Fiji would somehow make their situation legal because they will have missed three training call ups by the FMF! The Legal Requirement The Fiji Military Forces Act Cap 81 is the law under which any activity by defence forces personnel in Fiji or overseas must comply with or be authorized under. Contrary to what Lt Colonel Raivoce claims, or personally believes, his activities and that of the Company he represents are illegal under this Act for the following reasons: The FMF Act (Section 4) says the Forces are comprised of the “Regular Force, Territorial Force a Reserve of officers and Reserves”. Under the Act these soldiers, regardless of whether they are retired and in the reserve, in the territorial or regular force, can only be released for any duties overseas under the procedures set out in the Act. The procedure is as follows: The Minister for Home Affairs must first define by legal notice published in the Gazette, after approval by the Cabinet and the President, as Commander in Chief, a purpose or duty that authorises the defence forces involvement overseas (Section 3 (3)) and 3 (4). This also means the financing of such a venture must be lawfully approved (Section 3 (4). No officer or soldier of the FMF, whatever their status can be allowed to proceed on duty overseas without the Minister’s approval (Section 3 (4). Only the President, upon the advice of the Minister of Home Affairs, can disband a section of the FMF or discharge of the services of any individual soldier to enable such soldier to serve overseas under somebody else’s employment and control.
This procedure has not been followed yet by either the FMF or the Minister of Home Affairs and his Cabinet. I had written a number of letters to the Minister of Home Affairs, Joketani Cokanisiga, asking him to clarify if the recruitment of FMF territorial and reservist soldiers as mercenaries by Global Risks Strategies had been approved by him and his Government in accordance with the provisions of the FMF Act. It is over two months since I last wrote to the Minister my first letter and he still has not clarified this matter. Why has he not replied to my questions? The argument that has been made by Raivoce and other critics of me is that it is more important that 400 recruits of Global Risk Strategies are now earning over $1 million a month and are being employed and therefore we should not bother with checking if the project is in compliance with the relevant laws. Mr Raivoce has provided no proof of the income that these recruits are earning. It is like arguing that the marijuana growers in Natewa and Tunuloa Districts in Cakaudrove are earning good money and gainfully employed planting and selling of an illegal drug, therefore the Police and the Fijian administration should stop pestering them about the illegality of their activities. Because they are after all employed and feeding their families. Raivoce has also said that Global Risks Strategies is (quote) “working together with US Government, the U.N. and key commercial clients … in post conflict Iraq”. Iraq is not now in a post conflict situation. Conflicting is escalating. The UN offices have recently withdrawn from Iraq and the US Ambassador to Fiji, David Lyons had told me he had no official knowledge of Global Risks supposed links with the US Interim administration in Iraq. An article in the Fiji Sun on 20/9/03 featured senior US Senator Edward Kennedy stating that of the US$4 billion being spent monthly in Iraq by the US Interim Administration, US$2.5 billion is not accounted for. He said (quote): “My belief is this money is being shuffled all round to these political leaders in all parts of the world, bribing them to send troops.” I had asked in my letters to Minister Joketani Cokanasiga if the Fiji Government had been paid of any US dollars from Iraq and what did they know about the Company, Global Risks Strategies. He has also not answered these question so far. Who owns and controls this Company and from where does it get the money with which it is able to pay for these mercenaries from Fiji? Raivoce refers to “key commercial clients” in Iraq. Who are these commercial clients of Global Risks and why are they being allowed to recruit FMF soldiers in breach of the FMF Act and regulations? Why has Mr Raivoce mislead the public of Fiji with his claim that these reservist and territorial force soldiers have been lawfully released under the FMF Act? He has been acting like an illegal marijuana middleman and the fact that his clients are now employed in Iraq earning money for their families cannot be the excuse for the illegality of his activities. Finally, let me make it absolutely clear, the NGO Coalition is not against the involvement of Fijian troops in Iraq. Our position is that such involvement should be either under a United Nations mandate or, a legally legitimate bilateral or international agreement, approved by the Government of Fiji in accordance with the FMF Act. There is no evidence so far that the Fiji Government has lawfully approved the recruitment activities of Global Risks. Mr Raivoce’s illegal recruiting activity sets a dangerous precent because he has now opened the opportunity for private mercenary companies to freely recruit our soldiers who still have legal obligation under oaths of loyalty to the State of Fiji to serve overseas for mercenary purposes. And this is being done with the silent approval of the Government of Fiji.