"KAVA IN THE BLOOD" PROVIDES INSIGHTS INTO FIJI COUPS

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By Michael Field

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (April 28, 1999 - Agence France-Pressse)---A man who worked in Fiji's Government House during the 1987 military coups has revealed a key role Queen Elizabeth II had in saving Fiji and he says the country faces a much brighter future as it prepares for next month's general elections.

Peter Thomson, permanent secretary to Governor General Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau between the May and September 1987 coups, has revealed the roles in "Kava in the Blood" to be published on May 3.

In 1987 deputy military commander Sitiveni Rabuka overthrew the country's newly elected Indian backed government. At the time the country was roughly evenly divided between ethnic Indians and indigenous Fijians and Rabuka dumped the constitution to give supremacy to Fijians.

The racially biased constitution was condemned internationally and Fiji next month will hold its first elections under a new, multi-racial constitution.

Over the weekend Rabuka made a public apology to the Indian community for the coups and said he wanted to make the lives of "our Indian brothers and sisters" better than ever before.

"And I felt personally responsible and I apologize to them -- too late now so many of them have left, but I am committed to making the lives of those who have remained and those that want to come back a lot better than it had ever been before."

He said he was sad that those who instigated 1987's events "are now against me after having used me. . . .

"Most of you may recall the film, The Fall Guy. Well, I am supposed to be the Fall Guy but I'd like to tell them that I am the Fall Guy who refuses to fall."

The transformation of Rabuka is addressed by Thomson who notes his belief in Christian duty to save Fiji. But that is not the sole factor in his thinking.

"He wants to be one of the good guys, he wants to be a good guy in terms of the indigenous Fijians of whom he is part, he wants to be a good guy in religion and he wants to be a good guy in terms of being an international leader," Thomson said in an interview.

Rabuka wanted to find peace and is today a very self-confident man.

There has been speculation that Ganilau, now dead, gave Rabuka quiet support to launch his first coup.

"I will say with absolute certainty in my own mind, as one who knew him since the time of my birth and worked with him daily as his immediate lieutenant in 1987, that... Ganilau gave Colonel Rabuka no hint of assent in the planning and execution of his coups," Fiji born Thomson writes.

Rabuka, he said, "acted essentially alone."

He defends Ganilau and his tie with the Queen who was, at the time, Queen of Fiji. In Australia and New Zealand Ganilau's role was criticized as being sympathetic toward the coup but Thomson said the message from Buckingham Palace was more understanding.

An "inherent understanding" developed that Ganilau would reach a national consensus which the Queen could accept.

"These were immutable principles to which the governor general attached himself in the trying months that followed in the aftermath of the coup," he wrote.

"Our country was falling apart after the coup d'état in May 1987 and the governor generalship, with the timely advice of the judiciary, and the moral and legal backing of Buckingham Palace, saved the day."

Thomson said the future is bright for Fiji with "the deep wells of tolerance which have long been sunk into the ground of Fiji's various and national cultures." Fiji could have followed the Kosovo line of hate. Fiji had come full circle having lost its self-respect in 1987and now back with a constitution that gave "politics of inclusion" rather than exclusion.

"The culture is warm and welcoming," he said.

"I see the storm is over."

Michael Field Agence France-Presse New Zealand/South Pacific E-Mail: afp.nz@clear.net.nz Tel: (64 21) 688438 Fax: (64 21) 694035

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