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Fijians fly in as Russians try to escape

June 29, 2013

Fiji’s unelected leader has arrived in Moscow amid

widespread reports Syria’s closest ally has pulled its personnel out of the war-torn country because their lives are in danger.

Frank Bainimarama yesterday dispatched 182 Fiji soldiers to the Golan Heights as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission, admitting they could be going to their deaths but just as quickly pledging 500 if he was asked to.

Tight: Bashar al Assad and Dimitry Medvedev

He has today met with Russian president Dimitry Medvedev in what the regime is hailing as a landmark visit but there has been no mention of the obvious: Fiji with a population of just 800 thousand has sent troops to a war zone, that Russia, which has more than 143 million people with a much bigger military budget and armed forces, is trying to escape.

As we said in our earlier story, Bainimarama’s decision to send troops – and to commit as many 500 without waiting to see first how they fare – is driven by a desire to keep in good with the United Nations and to ensure his own survival.
The regime is predictably making a big deal of Bainimarama’s visit to Moscow ‘to promote trade and investment’ (admitting, too, that on the agenda is the Rugby Sevens), but the story the world is taken with today is the deteriorating situation in Syria and Russia’s readiness to get its personnel to safety.
The story broke two days ago – by one of Russia’s own leading newspaper, the Vedomosti, which said the military had withdrawn all of its personnel from the Syrian port of Tartuous.
Trade talks and rugby: Bainimarama arrives in Moscow.
“The decision to withdraw military personnel from Syria was connected to a desire not to endanger them in the civil war,” Vedomosti said. “It is clear that any incident with the Russian military will have adverse political repercussions.”

Moscow has since denied it has withdrawn personnel from Tartuous, saying they continue to work there.

Russia has been the Syrian regime’s biggest supporter, shielding President Basdhar al Assad and supplying what it says are purely defensive weapons while blocking Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at pressuring al Assad to end the bloodshed.

The import of what is at stake for Fiji soldiers who are now stationed on the border of Syria has been typically buried by a seemingly busy Suva, which the regime likes to think is a sign of a productive, working government.

So while we’ve had the farewelling of the soldiers, there has also been much ado about the launch of Fiji Airways to replace Air Pacific and the first flight of the first of two new A330s, bought with money from worker’s pensioners funds.

A reminder of the fallacy of the Bainimarama reign, though, is all too easy to find. Today, it is in the revelations of New Zealand’s former Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, who says Bainimarama ignored an offer from his government to make a serious attempt to solve Fiji’s homelessness problem if he promised not to carry out the coup in 2006.
In an interview with Pacific Beat, Peters says he made strenuous efforts to persuade Bainimarama not to go through with his plans to overthrow the Fiji government at a meeting in his office in Wellington in 2006, at which both then prime minister Laisenia Qarase and Bainimarama were present at.

He says New Zealand flew a plane up to Fiji to bring him back all by himself: ….. ‘not often you see a plane with just one person in it. But that’s how important we thought it was.’
The New Zealand First leader says he is ‘very hard nosed and used to the vagaries of politics’ but was ‘seriously surprised at Bainimarama’s reaction to his offer to help find housing for the country’s 95 thousand homeless’, which was: ‘That’s nice.’


The MP says the housing crisis has worsened and ‘probably now 120-thousand who live in abject misery and poverty and in squalor for lesser housing in Fiji.’
Source – Couofourpointfive; Posted by Rusi Varani for SWM
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