FIJI MILITARY PLAYING DANGEROUS GAME

Editorial

Fiji Sun

SUVA, Fiji (Nov. 30) – If Fiji doesn't wake up to a military government this morning, the likelihood of a coup will have receded but not disappeared. For, as this newspaper has previously pointed out, the threat of a coup is far more useful to the military than the fact of one. The continual and deliberate escalation of tension by the military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama may well be aimed at persuading the President that his emergency powers are now required and that he should remove the Government and appoint an interim administration. Thus the army would have its way without firing a shot and without (it hopes) forcing the world to turn its back on Fiji. It's the coup we might have when we're not having a coup.

And last night's "exercise" had, quite frankly, nothing whatsoever to do with the army's stated purpose of preparing to defend Suva against foreign invasion. To plan such an exercise would have taken weeks if not months. It was a show of strength aimed once again at ratcheting up the tension and increasing the pressure on the president. But it's a very, very dangerous game the army is playing. And the longer it continues, the higher the cost for Fiji's families - the very people Commodore Bainimarama says he wants to protect and promote. And where is the voice of that other organization that stands up for the poor, the Fiji Labor Party? If ever there was a time for solidarity among the supporters of democracy and the rule of law, surely it is now. Certainly the Fiji Labor Party has condemned any unconstitutional behavior but the public has yet to witness a full-blooded denunciation of the army's actions naming names, dates and deeds. One hopes that's only because the party's attention has been focused on its own internal dispute.

Any move by the Fiji Labor Party to join the chorus of disapproval would be welcome and might even help increase awareness among the military that theirs is not a popular rebellion. Sadly but predictably, yesterday's dialogue in New Zealand has produced nothing of substance and it's business and usual as far as the commander is concerned. This game of brinkmanship has to end and the best way to end it would be for the commander and the Prime Minister to cut the best deal they can on a means of co-existing. That, however, seems unlikely to say the least. So the nation is left to wonder if and when the commander might consider that the tension tactic has lost its value and turn to action. He must know in his heart that such an event would be nothing short of catastrophic for Fiji and all of its people.

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