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Coconut dictator

November 16, 2009

 Nov 12th 2009 | CANBERRA From The Economist print edition

 A coup leader who is tough on the outside, softer underneath FIJI’S military strongman, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has thumped down his fist. He will restore relations with Australia and New Zealand only in 2014, he says, having booted out their High Commissioners on November 4th. He justified the expulsions by saying the countries were interfering in his efforts to replace judges he sacked when he abrogated the constitution in April.

This latest diplomatic crisis, as with previous such episodes, led to a ratcheting up of repression at home: Brij Lal, a persistent critic of the regime and a distinguished historian of the Indian diaspora, was taken to a military barracks, harassed and thrown out of the country. This week, the authorities started jamming anti-government bloggers, who have proliferated since the coup of December 2006.

 Mr Bainimarama’s belligerence has divided the region. Kevin Rudd, Australia’s prime minister, gave warning that Fiji might spread its “coup culture” across the Pacific. Some Pacific island leaders, though, who think Australia and New Zealand are being overbearing, are more sympathetic to Fiji’s coup leader.

 But while he talks tough in the region, back home the commodore is in trouble. Fiji’s economy is reeling. Sugar, its mainstay for over 100 years, has been devastated by big cuts in European Union preferential prices; the industry is failing to meet agreed shipments to the British company Tate & Lyle. Other export industries, including garments, bottled mineral water and gold, also face difficulties. Only tourism fared well in 2009, as Australians and New Zealanders stayed nearer home instead of going to Europe and America. The recent expulsions risk turning some of them away again.

Mr Bainimarama’s political position is being eroded, too. In August, two of his rivals—once arch-adversaries—joined forces against him. They are Laisenia Qarase, whom he deposed as prime minister in 2006 and who retains strong support amongst the 57% of the population who are indigenous Fijians, and Mahendra Chaudhry, who resigned from the government last year and whose Fiji Labour Party has long been the party of choice for the 37% of the population who are Indians. The two men want fresh elections by October 2010.

Of those politicians who remain in the commodore’s cabinet, most have no credibility, having been rejected at the last poll, held in 2006. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, who became president on November 5th, had his nomination as vice-president rejected in 2007 by the Great Council of Chiefs, then the appointing authority for both posts. As Mr Bainimarama made clear in July when he acknowledged that Mr Qarase would win an election if one were held soon, he has strong reasons for delaying both election and diplomatic normality until 2014.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. tikotkiokina permalink
    November 16, 2009 3:57 PM

    Anthony Gates

    On Sunday Gates held a media conference and read a long statement, attacking the role of New Zealand and Australia for what he claimed ….click the link

    http://feeds.feedburner.com/wordpress/fCdZ

  2. EnufDictatorship permalink
    November 16, 2009 6:22 PM

    Tamani Coconut…I mean as reported by CoupFourandAHalf…in his words, this Coconati said,

    “”We’ve got to stop this. You’ve got to stop this bullying. If you bully people there will be some retaliation,”

    SO…WHAT ARE WE WAITING FOR PEOPLE??????….THE BULLY KNOWS REALLY WELL WHAT THE CONSEQUENCES OF SUCH ACTIONS ARE…RETALIATION. IF HE CAN DO IT, WHY CAN’T US?
    I MEAN, A PEACEFUL WALK IS NOT GOING TO HARM ANYONE WHO HAS THE RIGHT MIND TO DO SO, BUT IT IS A SHOW OF OUR DISAPPROVAL OF BULLYING ACTIONS BY THE BIGGEST BULLY OF THE PACIFIC BY FAR…VOREQE BAINIMARAMA.

  3. Tim permalink
    November 16, 2009 7:45 PM

    IF anyone gets a chance, check out Frank on TVNZ’s ‘Sunday’ programme (15/11/09).
    Let’s hope he does a few more such interviews. If anyone had any doubts as to just how big a fool the man is, he removed them. THe world must be wondering how someone like Frank came to be Commodore, let alone Illegal Interim Prime Minister

  4. Mark Manning permalink
    November 16, 2009 11:01 PM

    I iz use prum minsta __________________

  5. Nostradamus permalink
    November 17, 2009 12:00 AM

    Tim,
    Can you post a link to the interview you are referring to?
    Thanks

  6. November 18, 2009 9:45 PM

    Thanks MM.
    I guess the burning question I have in listening to this is why the interviewer did not ask they guy who gave him the authority to speak for “Fiji” instead of the Peole of Fiji or their elected leader?
    Talk about sovereignty, the sovereignty of Fiji is in fact at stake here, but not from any foreign country. It is coming from this descendant of criminals from England and Australia 200 years ago, but aside from that he should be able to distinguish between the will of the People and his own stupidity and vengeance. I did get the feeling Voreqe, insecure and flustered as he is, wanted to get up and throttle this courageous interviewer. I have no doubt she felt intimidated.

  7. lastpolarbear permalink
    November 21, 2009 2:31 PM

    The only reason Frank wouldn’t retaliate against a New Zealander or Australian is, because he knows it would invoke the wrath of those Governments and bring about an end to his own Reign as supreme commander of all things bright and shiny !

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