Friday, September 14, 2007

Bainimarama alleges Australian invasion plan

The military strongman of Fiji, Commodore Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama, is alleging that the chief of the Australian Defense Forces threatened to send troops to Fiji if Bainimarama carried out his (eventually successful) plans for a military coup last November. Speaking to reporters from the Fiji Times newspaper, Bainimarama angrily countered claims made by Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer that Australia was "no threat" to Fiji.

"(Downer) was lying" claimed Bainimarama, "because in November the Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Houston called me in Sinai. He said 'do not do anything that would pit my soldiers against yours'. In military terms when you threaten someone it involves capability and intention so there was an intention to move troops to Fiji."

Downer dismissed the Commodore's claims, noting accurately (if a bit defensively), that "dictators often make false claims like these in order to build public support for their illegitimate regimes".

While this is true in the general sense, the question arises: why didn't Australia consider an intervention to prevent the overthrow of Fiji's democratically elected government? Bainimarama launched his coup after providing months of warning, and surely, Fiji's ostensibly loyal allies could have found some way to intervene, either militarily or diplomatically, to assure Bainimarama that he wouldn't get away with it.

Whatever the reason, Bainimarama on his part, appears to have calculated very accurately that none of the world's great powers would do anything more than raise an eyebrow when he made his move. And in typical fashion, he was exactly right. What, was Helen Clark going to stop him? Considering how she's presented herself as Bainimarama's staunchest foreign political foe, it might have occurred to her that New Zealand, being considerably more powerful and influential than Fiji, could have brought its own pressure to bear to prevent the coup.

So if I have any disgruntled military leaders in politically unstable countries reading, take heart: all the threats that "America won't stand for this" or "Europe would never let you do this" are so much puffery. I suspect you already know it, but don't take it from me - take it from Frank Bainimarama.

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