There was an immediate cross-party negative reaction to the 2006 coup in Fiji, civilised as it was by world standards. One would gather that the government toppled was wise, dispassionate, committed to the development of Fiji, even-handed and honest. Sadly, none of this was true. The Commodore’s demands were demands that should have been made by Fiji’s donor nations and backed up with threats of withdrawal of aid years ago. His chief demands were that the Qarase government sack and prosecute ministers involved in the George Speight coup which the Commodore had thwarted; that the government tackle the massive conventional corruption endemic in the public sector; and that the government abandon the new-style corruption identified in the editorial in this Journal in November 2006 whereby the government taxes the parts of the population it does not like and hands out public money to its cronies and to buy support. In Fiji this had an additional racial element. Hardworking Indians who are thwarted at every turn by Fiji’s bizarre landholding system were then being taxed and the money dished out to indigenous Fijians who appear to believe that they have a right to maintain a lifestyle that does not generate wealth and be supported by their own Indian population, or New Zealand or Australia or China or somebody. The Bainimarama government is now embarked on long-overdue fiscal and land reform without which all aid to Fiji is simply money thrown down a black hole.

The purpose of a constitution is to control and limit government. It follows from this that one of the potential threats to a constitution comes from the government of the day which may not want to be limited. “Elected government good, military coup bad” is a facile analysis. Despite what Jennings and other socialists believe, it is clear that elections are not sufficient to keep a government within bounds, especially when a voting majority reckons it can benefit by penalising a minority. It follows from this that it must, in the extreme, be the duty of the armed forces to overthrow an elected government which is threatening the constitution. This idea is expressed in New Zealand by the oath of allegiance not to the government of the day but to the Queen. The Crown today means not so much the person of the Sovereign as a set of values higher than those of the government of the day. New Zealand Police and Defence Forces appear not to understand this.

Source: NZ Law Journal 2007