By Rory Callinan
Monday, Nov. 27, 2006
Fiji's reputation as the coup capital of the South Pacific appears safe. The country's military commander Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama could be days away from taking over. Last week the commander ordered the country's Territorial Army and Naval Reserves into camp and posted extra guards at Government House. The move was in response to a continuing police investigation of a possible meeting between Bainimarama and Fiji's president Ratu Josefa Iloilo.
It's merely the latest ploy in a pattern of aggressive posturing by the military commander, who has given the country's government a series of deadlines to implement seemingly impossible demands. Among many demands, Bainimarama has asked for: the resignation of the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase; the sacking of the Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes; the disbandment of the police tactical response division; the scrapping of a Bill that gives sea-access control back to indigenous landowners; and, the abandonment of the proposed Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill.
Army sources who spoke with TIME on condition of anonymity believe the commander will follow through on a military takeover when he returns this week from a visit to New Zealand. According to the sources, military plans have been drawn up to secure the government; the strategy includes lists of those who would be put under guard and what installations would be seized, including the local television station. The same sources also say 40 soldiers are already working as spies at airports, are driving taxis, and are moving about quietly in the street markets and the government. They also add that any attempt to arrest Bainimarama would be met with force from his ever-present, eight-member security detail.
Such claims have been backed up by a series of extraordinary incidents, including the arrest this month of two soldiers dressed in civilian clothes who were keeping the Australian High Commission under surveillance. As well, there was the Army's seizure of a container-load of ammunition from Suva's docks by 44 soldiers, who were accompanied by a battalion leader and an ambulance. According to a source, an armed squad took up position around recent Armistice Day services attended by Bainimarama.
A former Fiji Army officer, Captain Mikaele Dreu, believes the commander has surrounded himself with soldiers who are unlikely to question his judgement. "The advice he wants is the advice that he gets," says Dreu, who was involved in logistics provision and left the Army last year. As to the rank and file, Dreu believes most of the lower ranking soldiers will not question a coup order. "They want to maintain their livelihood rather than thinking that something is illegal," he says. "All they will be thinking about is, How am I going to put food on the table for my family?" Dreu believes Bainimarama is driven by his personal feelings rather than by Fiji's best interests. "He's got personal stuff that he wants to make a national issue. He still believes he can barge in and change government since he was the one who opened the window to Qarase to come in and become leader." Those who could play a role if a coup takes place are: Navy boss Francis Kean, the brother of Bainimarama's wife; the leader of the Third Battalion, Tevita Mara, son of the late former Fiji Prime Minister Ratu Kamisese Mara; the Army's Landforce Commander Pita Driti, a vocal Bainimarama supporter, who told local media that Police Commissioner Hughes better not try to arrest his boss; and, Captain Esale Teleni, Fiji's deputy military commander.
Bainimarama is already under Police investigation for alleged acts of sedition. It's possible that prosecutors could recommend the laying of charges as early as today.
May 06, 2011
The Driti-Mara drama
Things are heating up in the Bainimarama vs Driti-Mara triangle.
Bainimarama has finally decided to cut Driti and Mara loose by getting them charged for "seditious comments".
Already this charade has triggered a response from one of Bainimarama's former military officer, Jone Baledrokadroka, questioning why military men are being charged under civil proceedings instead of via a military inquiry as is the normal process.
Meanwhile Bainimarama's new puppy, Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, on cue starts whimpering about military unity and resolve.
All this however was predicted in TIME before Bainimarama executed the treasonous coup.