Jone Baledrokadroka

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Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka is a Fijian academic and former career soldier who served for 25 years.[1] Baledrokadroka, who joined the Army in 1981, was briefly the Acting Land Force Commander in January 2006. He was dismissed from this position on 13 January 2006, after only two days in the post, in which he oversaw Infantry Regiments, the Engineer's Regiment, the Logistics Support Unit, and the Forces Training Group. He was also in charge of United Nations peacekeeping missions. During the Nov 2000 attempted takeover of Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Baledrokadroka was Chief Staff Officer Operations and commanded the troops who put down the insurrection. Prior to his appointment as Acting Land Force Commander Baledrokadroka had attended the Defence and Strategic Studies Course at the Australian Defence College, Canberra in 2003.

Education[edit]

Baledrokadroka is an Old Boy of the Marist Brothers School in Suva and De La Salle College Auckland New Zealand. He has a PhD in Politics from ANU, Masters degree in Strategic Studies from Deakin University and a post grad diploma in Defence. He is a fellow of the Australian Defence College, Land Warfare Study Centre of the Australian army,the US Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and the Asia Pacific Center for Strategic Studies in Hawaii.[2]

Baledrokadroka's dismissal[edit]

The Fiji Live news service reported on 12 January 2006 that Baledrokadroka had confronted the Military Commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, a harsh critic of some government policies, telling him to either submit to the authority of the government or else resign, but this was initially denied by Army spokesman Captain Neumi Leweni and later by Commodore Bainimarama. Bainimarama had been making increasingly strident pronouncements against certain government policies, including the early release of prisoners convicted of involvement in the Fiji coup of 2000, and had recently threatened to depose the government.True to Baledrokadroka's allegations's on 5 December 2006, the Commander did depose the SDL government in a military coup d'état.

It was reported the next day that Baledrokadroka had been relieved of his command. Fiji Live reported that he had been ordered to go on leave until further notice; Bainimarama himself had taken over the command, effective immediately. His dismissal was confirmed by Military spokesman Captain Neumi Leweni and by Baledrokadroka himself, who told Fiji Television that he was on leave, pending resignation.

Baledrokadroka's version[edit]

Baledrokadroka told the Fiji Times on the 14th that he had resigned rather than obey a "treasonous" order of Bainimarama's. "An order posted on Sunday was hard for me to understand but eventually I deciphered it as being treasonous and I refused to obey it," he said. Bainimarama telephoned him, he claimed, and told him that he was to be dismissed. He initially refused to accept his dismissal, he claimed, until the charges against him were specified in writing.

This led to the crisis in the barracks on the morning of the 12th, he said. He claimed to have confronted the Commander and told him that his intentions were treasonous, and asked for his resignation. "I asked the commander for his resignation on the grounds that it was perfectly clear that he was going to commit treason ... I told him it was either he resign or I resign," an emotional Baleidrokadroka told the Times. The army should be apolitical, he insisted, and should uphold the rule of law, democracy, and the military profession. Democracy, he said, was fragile in Fiji, and needed to be strengthened. He denied that he had any political motive for resigning.

He denied claims by unnamed army sources that he had tried to stage a mutiny. "I am a professional soldier and I would not dream of such a thing," he said emphatically. The next day, he angrily denied claims made in a press conference by Bainimarama the day before that during their disagreement, he had threatened to shoot the Commander. "He has lied and he knows that he is lying," Baledrokadroka declared. "... I absolutely deny that I threatened violence against the Commander and I’m deeply shocked at the allegations."

Baledrokadroka reiterated in an interview with the New Zealand Herald on 16 January that he believed Bainimarama was plotting "treason". He claimed that the Military had become politicised, and called for Bainimarama to be replaced as Commander by someone from New Zealand or Australia, in order to depoliticise the Fijian Military.[3]

Bainimarama's version[edit]

Fiji Village reported on 14 January that at a press conference held that afternoon, Commodore Bainimarama said that Baledrokadroka had been dismissed for insubordination and for failing the loyalty test of the Military. The command which Baledrokadroka had refused to obey had only been a test, which he had failed miserably, the Commander claimed. He had been willing to give Baledrokadroka another chance, he said, but Baledrokadroka had made matters worse by talking to the media. He accused Baledrokadroka of trying to elicit support from soldiers. Accordingly, the Military had "isolated" Baledrokadroka in his office and the Military's legal team had reasoned with him to persuade him not to attempt a mutiny. In a recent interview, Bainimarama had already told the Review magazine: "We will not allow our officers to sit on the fence anymore as they did in 2000."

Bainimarama was joined by military spokesman Captain Neumi Leweni, who revealed that Military Police were now investigating the circumstances surrounding the barracks crisis that led to Baledrokadroka's resignation, and a Board of Inquiry had been set up.

Also joining Bainimarama was Lieutenant Colonel Etueni Caucau, his legal adviser. Baledrokadroka had "threatened" the Commander, Caucau told Fiji Live, and had been confined to his office by other senior officers to prevent him from carrying out his threat. Baledrokadroka's claim to have outside support was what had prompted the closing and guarding of the barracks' gates, Caucau added.

Investigation[edit]

On 03 Nov 2007 Jone Baledrokadroka and eleven others were arrested and charged in an alleged assassination plot against the interim Prime Minister, some of his Cabinet Ministers and RFMF Officers. Baledrokadroka was again cleared of all chargers on 24 Dec 2008 as the Director Public Prosecution office entered a Noli Prosequi due to insufficient evidence tendered by the Police and the Military.

Post-military career[edit]

Since his dismissal from the Military, Baledrokadroka has pursued a doctarate in politics and an academic research position with the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University. He has continued to speak out against what he sees as the inordinate influence of the Military in Fijian politics. He attributes this, in part, to its role in United Nations peacekeeping operations, which, he says, have put the Fijian Military in a mediating role abroad and whetted their appetite for an interventionist role at home.[4][5] In 2012, in the leadup to the general elections scheduled for 2014, the first since the 2006 coup, he expressed scepticism about whether the Military would allow the vote to be free and fair. "The path in this progress towards democracy has been fraught with allegations of continuing military oversight and interference in the constitution-making process," he wrote in an Australian National University journal. "And it is possible that the new Constitution, once it has been finalised by Bainimarama’s handpicked Constituent Assembly, might become a setback to democracy by spawning a military backed one-party state."[6]

Personal life[edit]

Balerokadroka is the son of the late Ratu Alipate Baledrokadroka, a former Senator and Chief from northern Naitasiri, who held the title of Taukei ni Waluvu. His mother, Adi Silafaga Kamikamica comes from Nacokula, Lasakau, on Bau Island.

A New Zealand newspaper, the Sunday Star-Times, reported on 15 January 2006 that Baledrokadroka was the brother of Senator Adi Lagamu Vuiyasawa, the de facto wife of Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, the Qaranivalu (Paramount Chief) of Naitasiri.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Jone Baledrokadroka MStrategic Studies (Deakin), Grad Dip (ANU)". Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs ANU College of Asia & the Pacific. Australian National University. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  2. ^ "Jone Baledrokadroka MStrategic Studies (Deakin), Grad Dip (ANU)". Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs ANU College of Asia & the Pacific. Australian National University. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  3. ^ "Fiji Crisis: Interview with Jone Baledrokadroka". www.herald.co.nz. New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  4. ^ "Lt Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka talks about the impact of peacekeeping on Fiji's military.". ABC News. ABC News. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Baledrokadroka, Jone. "The unintended consequences of Fiji's UN peacekeeping operations". The Strategist. The Strategist — The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog. Retrieved 16 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Baledrokadroka, Jone. "Democracy for Fiji?". ANU College of Asia & the Pacific. Australian National University. Retrieved 16 June 2015.