Pita, Tevita and the Cheshire Cat
Those opposed to the Bainimarama government claim the situation reflects serious divisions in the military and an attempt by Bainimarama to forestall action against him. Those promoting this interpretation include the blog CoupFourPointFive (that first published the story), former Land Force Commander Jone Baledrokadroka (now studying at ANU), RadioNZ International (that most unusually cited a blog as its source of information!) and journalist-cum-blogger Michael Field with his usual bag of weighted words and colourful phrases.
Field writes: "Key members of a colonel’s clique that backed Fiji’s 2006 military coup have been sent on indefinite leave by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama amid wild rumours of further action. Two key figures were dumped yesterday following the unexplained departure of another last month as Bainimarama appears to be fending off challenges..."
Reports from Suva, however, suggest there is nothing unusual about the move. The Fiji Sun reports: "A huge amount of outstanding leave has led to two senior temporary appointments within the Republic of the Fiji Military Forces.Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga has been appointed acting Land Force Commander and Major Amani Suliano is temporary commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment.They will hold the fort for Brigadier Pita Driti and Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba, who are on leave." [My italics.]
So where does this leave independent observers? Should they believe the story started by CoupFourPointFive, that a month ago reported that Voqere Bainimarama and Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum had been arrested (when Bainimarama was actually at a meeting and Khaiyum was overseas) or should they believe the official story? Both sides are credible and both sides want us to believe what they say. For the moment, I'll observe the old Cheshire saying, "When in doubt, do nowt."
"`Cheshire Puss,' [Alice] began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. `Come, it's pleased so far,' thought Alice, and she went on. `Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?'
`That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,' said the Cat.
`I don't much care where--' said Alice.
`Then it doesn't matter which way you go,' said the Cat.
`--so long as I get SOMEWHERE,' Alice added as an explanation.
`Oh, you're sure to do that,' said the Cat, `if you only walk long enough.'"
--From Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.
FLASHBACK JULY 2009. From the blog Archives 15 July 2009."Last week CoupFourpointfive reported Bainimarama had suspended Land Force Commander Pita Driti and Commanding officer of the 3rd Infantry Regiment Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara. But on Monday the story was that it was Driti and Ratu Tevita telling Bainimarama to step down, and yesterday (Wednesday) it's back to Bainimarama telling Driti and Ratu Tevita again. Yet both officers were reported taking morning tea on Monday at the barracks and neither has made a public statement. To keep the pot boiling, the blogs also reported tension "within the ranks" over Bainimarama's cancellation of the Methodist Conference, saying "inside sources" said the Conference will go ahead despite the cancellation.
As you may see, I think it's a little early to take the CoupFourPointFive story too seriously.