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Brigadier-General Ro Jone Kalouniwai is the newly-appointed director-general for Fiji's National Security and Defence Council Secretariat.
He replaces former Minister and Navy officer Timoci Natuva.
Ro Jone comes with vast experience and has completed a wide range of military courses. They included Political Warfare, Regimental Officers Intelligence Course (NZ), Defence Services Staff College (India), Combined Defence Intelligence Research & Analysis Course (Australia), UN Officers Course (Sweden).
He held senior appointments with the RFMF. He was posted as the:
*Battalion Commander for 2nd Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment with the MFO in Sinai – Egypt
*Battalion Commander for 3rd Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment in Fiji
He assumed the appointment as the Chief of Staff Officer for Operations, Planning, Intelligence and Training for the Land Force Command HQ, Chief of Staff for the RFMF Land Force component, Commander of the RFMF Land Forces.
He also held a two-year post as the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) Chief of Staff in early 2015.
He holds an Executive Certificate in Management from the Australian Maritime College, Graduate Diploma in Management from Central Queensland University, Masters in Business Administration from Central Queensland University, Masters of Science in Defence and Strategic Studies from Madras University in India.
Ro Jone recently completed his Masters in Politics and Policy from Deakin University in Australia.
The National Security Council Secretariat is the Republic of Fiji’s National Security Council.
It was established in 1990, through the Fiji Intelligence Service Decree, by the interim government which followed the 1987 coups.
The Council’s purpose was to “determine and direct the action to be taken in respect of matters affecting the sovereignty, integrity and security of Fiji and its people”.
Below is a Q&A with Ro Jone on his new role and plans for the secretariat moving forward.
Can you elaborate about your role as Director-General for National Security Strategy Secretariat and how long is your term there?
I am on secondment from the RFMF so I am still part of the RFMF but there was a need to fill up that post of Director-General. There was a discussion between the Minister and Commander in looking for somebody to fill in, given the fact that we had two very well experienced predecessors, the late Ambassador Esela Teleni and also former Minister Timoci Natuva.
They’ve both have put in the draft National Security Strategy for the country and I understand that the review done by Natuva has been vetted through the Solicitor-General’s office and is waiting the Cabinet decision.
I think the next stage is for us to put up to Cabinet, have a Cabinet paper done and see how it goes on from there. But the whole idea is to have that implemented as soon as practically possible so we can have this whole system moving.
My responsibility as I have said was just to provide that continuity and meeting the delivery that is required and there is still a lot that needs to be done as well given the fact that a lot has been done but it’s critical that this machinery is in place.
We’ve had that experience with COVID-19 and it only makes this particular framework an even more critical necessity for the Government to have it in place so it allows the Government to provide that sense of security for the country looking at this non-traditional threat.
What is the main role of the National Security Strategy Secretariat?
The main role of the National Security Secretariat is actually to come up with a mechanism. That mechanism is a multi-agency response mechanism that is able to look at non-traditional threats, provide that from the national security from the various agencies up to the National Security Council, provide them with the requirements that will help them make those critical decisions on behalf of the Government, the nation as a whole and that is very important for the National Security Secretariat.
Do you see any duplication of roles with the current set up of the Ministry of Defence and National Security? Is there any uniqueness in the setup of the Secretariat?
What this is trying to do is to implement the whole of Government approach and also the whole of the national approach. So, it’s also looking at the government agencies and also the non-government agencies in terms of civil society whether there is an involvement of non-traditional threats. So, in terms of its uniqueness, the Secretariat is reaching out to all Government agencies. COVID-19 is a very classic example, it’s all about health security, the pandemic it raised some very important issues with regards to health security.
The Ministry of Health was very much adequately responsive to these in terms of how they dealt with the problem. We are looking beyond that at other non-traditional threats that would require us to look into co-operation, how things could happen with us continuing the dialogue with other agencies in terms of looking at them as subject experts in their various spheres of responsibilities.
So, the National Security Secretariat provides that co-ordinating mechanisms. It doesn’t step on toes or overreach into other areas that it may not be responsible for but what it does is that it offers that coordinating mechanism to bring together that whole government approach.
There has been some talk in the set-up of the Australian Pacific Security College. Will the National Security Strategy Secretariat have a role in this setup?
There is a partnership with them in terms of us looking into how we can look into our home-grown solutions. Well-developed countries are well-versed with things of these nature while there could be some criticisms in terms of how we’ve done things here at the National level.
But on a positive outlook we have brought up our own home-grown solutions and that is something that we want to look into and see how we can better those particular solutions and see how it becomes very unique to Fiji in terms of how we have dealt with COVID-19.
Our relationship with the Australian Pacific Security College is basically to get that partnership with them, have a dialogue where we can always sit down together and see how we can better things in terms of them providing us with the framework or with the guidance and we are providing them with what we have done in terms of how we have dealt with COVID-19 and the way various ministries and agencies have actually come into play for that particular scenario.
With the outbreak of the COVID-19, what security challenges have surfaced on the domestic front?
The ministry has done very well. If we look at how they have coped with the COVID-19, they have done a lot.
But if you are asking from a single agency point of view, there are issues in terms of information sharing, bureaucratic side wing, policies that each agency can relate to in terms of working together or during this co-operation of how agencies could help each other. Those are some of the challenges that the National Security Secretariat intends to look into as well.
Once we are providing that framework we also look into how we can actually provide more good governance in terms of the system that is in place.
It’s looking at how we can actually provide much more in terms of risk management. These are the process we want to look into as well as to see if things become a bit simpler.
It won’t be perfect but what we want to do is reach a particular level in terms of a response system that is able to tackle these problems in a more systematic and coordinated manner.
This means you have everybody on board providing the necessities which make things much easier for the government leadership providing the decision-making process in a timely manner.
There has been some diplomatic standoff between China and Australia in recent times. What implication does this have on Fiji’s security landscape?
Everybody is going through the same problem. COVID-19 has taught us today that no nation is immune from these new norms. We have this pandemic coming and it has shut down the whole world.
It’s placed most nations on a level playing field in terms of how they encounter the whole situation but each region, each country is being influenced in different ways.
Australia, China have been impacted in their own ways. Fiji and the Pacific managed to keep the levels at the various lowest levels.
There are advantages they are always there to provide us with that particular assistance to help us.
I don’t see any geopolitical rivalry coming into play here but what is more important is the humanitarian outlook in terms of how they see and how they can actually help small island nations in fighting this particular pandemic.
Any other comments?
I look forward to this new responsibility. It’s taken me out of the RFMF but I’m not away from the RFMF, I am still a part of it. But it’s making me look into the security picture, from a more strategic outlook and it’s quite exciting and I’m looking forward to the new role and the new position to play.
SOURCE: FIJI SUN/PACNEWS
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