Bainimarama's Four Coups and New Zealand's Involvement

Clockwise: Lal, Hunter, Peters, Hughes
The NZHerald has  published Victor Lal and Russell Hunter's article on Bainimarama's supposed four coups and the refusal of the NZ police to comply with the request of Fiji police commissioner Andrew Hughes to arrest Bainimarama when he was in NZ for his granddaughter's christening just before the December 2006 coup.

The article, published at 8:40am Saturday, was copied by at least  four anti-blog (FijiToday, RealFijiNews, TruthforFiji and Coup 4.5) within the next 24 hours. These blogs publish links to each other so it takes no time to jump on new stories. I doubt the Herald or the blogs will publish this response.

Bainimarama Planned Four Coups
The article is of interest for two reasons, the first of which is its claim that Bainimarama had planned three coups before 2006. I've read claims (on the anti-blogs, no sources cited) of the first supposed attempt when Bainimarama negotiated the release of Chaudhry and other MPS kidnapped by Speight. But as one informed person put it: "It just doesn't add up against what we've all understood: that Bainimarama handed power to Qarase expecting him to turn the country around and then became disillusioned over his pro-indigenous agenda and plan to free Speight."
 
Most people at that time said Bainimarama was looking for a neutral, non political person to head a temporary government and someone suggested Qarase to which Bainimarama agreed.  Had he wanted to, Bainimarama would have had the means, and a sufficient measure of public support, to take over government but instead he "installed" Qarase. It was not expected that Qarase would form a party, the SDL, and stand in the 2001 election, The root of the tension between Bainimarama and Qarase — and the most probable reason for the 2006 Coup —  can be traced to this time.

Qarase turned out to be far from neutral. He sought to release Speight and other detained plotters (the Tolerance and Reconciliation Bill); he included members of the former extremist Matanitu Vanua (CAMV) party in his Cabinet,  and he proposed "pro-Fijian" discriminatory legislation such as the Qoliqoli Bill that Bainimarama called upon him to withdraw.  Bainimarama felt cheated by Qarase and on several occasions said he had gone back on his word. By late 2006 many others shared Bainimarama's concerns. They thought Qarase's proposed legislation discriminatory and racist and  his regime corrupt. Even the Fiji Times expressed concern at the high level of corruption.

Lal and Hunter claim: "In 2000 during the negotiations that ended the Speight hostage crisis he (Bainimarama) suggested that the military should run the country for up to 50 years but Speight – and the president – would have none of it. In 2004 and again in 2005 he planned to take over the Government but his senior officers refused to commit treason." But they provided no details or evidence to support their claim

The military may have offered to take over government as an interim measure in 2000, though I have never heard it mentioned and they cite no sources. I doubt the "50 years" accusation, but it's possible. Bainimarama's off-the- cuff remarks are well known. What we do know is that no one took the alleged remark seriously.  Only people hostile to Bainimarama would create and elevate its importance, six years after the supposed utterance.

The claim of intended coups 2 and 3, in 2004 and 2005, is more credible though I think they would be better described as increasing tension between Bainimarama and Government.  It is likely the 2006 Coup took a long time brewing so I'm not surprised, or concerned, that there may have been rumblings in 2004 and 2005. By early 2006, however, matters were coming to a head and reported dissension within the mililary seems likely to have been due to diffences of opinion about what the military should do about pending Qarase Government legislation, and rumours that Qarase, and Police Commissioner, Australian Anthony Hughes, were planning to arrest Bainimarama for treason.

The Baledrokadroka Incident, which recalls this period, is reasonably documented in Wikipedia, and the contrary views expressed between Bainimarama and his second-in-command illustrate just how difficult it is to get at the truth. I suspect Baledrokadroka, now in exile and very anti-Bainimarama, is one source of the Lal and Hunter article.

The second reason the article is of special interest comes in two parts: Why was there what one reader called the "spectacular falling out between Bainimarama and Hughes when they'd once been on the same page? Was Hughes doing the bidding of people higher up the food chain in Australia? It may go some way to explaining Canberra's continuing obstinacy about the regime."

The Plan to Arrest Bainimarama in New Zealand
The second part is the action taken by Qarase and Hughes to involve the New Zealand Government. I quote the Lal and Hunter article:

"Fiji’s chief of police made a private call to his New Zealand counterpart urging him to arrest Commodore Frank Bainimarama a few weeks before the military leader seized power in a coup in December 2006. It was reported at the time that a request had been made through Interpol and rejected by the New Zealand Government but only now can details from behind the scenes be revealed.

"In November 2006 then Police Commissioner Howard Broad took the call from his Fiji counterpart Andrew Hughes, an Australian, who wanted to know if Commodore Bainimarama had committed any offence under New Zealand law for which he could be arrested. Teams of police officers from both forces worked over a weekend and agreed the future dictator could be charged  in New Zealand with perverting the course of justice in a foreign jurisdiction. The planned charge related to remarks made by Commodore Bainimarama in New Zealand regarding an investigation into his alleged sedition in Fiji. Mr Hughes sent two senior officers – an assistant commissioner and a senior detective – to New Zealand to liaise in the planned arrest.

“Then Howard Broad had a change of heart,” said Mr Hughes. “He said New Zealand Foreign Affairs preferred a political solution. I argued it was his decision as Police Commissioner as to who should be charged in New Zealand. At the time Commodore Bainimarama was in New Zealand for his granddaughter’s christening and the Foreign Minister at the time, Winston Peters, had taken the opportunity to broker talks between him and elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase aimed at diverting Fiji’s lurch towards a military takeover. A day later, Mr Hughes received a call from Mr Broad... In the end, Mr Broad told me, ‘Well, we’re not going to arrest him.” Mr Broad, now retired, told the Weekend Herald yesterday in a written statement that he remembered the call well.

I remember it as a highly unusual request to consider an allegation against the Chief of Defence Force of a neighbouring country’s properly constituted Government. I remember giving this decision a lot of consideration because it contained complex operational, legal and  policy issues. I made the decision but I took a lot of advice. I remain comfortable with it. He said some aspects of Mr Hughes’ explanation did not accord with his recollection but he did not specify what they were."

Hughes said they did not attempt to arrest Bainimarama in Fiji because he was heavily guarded and he wanted to avoid an armed confrontation between the police and the military. So when PM "Qarase waited at Suva’s Nausori airport to board a New Zealand Air Force VIP jet to take him to the Peters-brokered talks in Wellington, he was surprised to be joined by Mr Hughes, who then explained that the arrest plan was unlikely to come to fruition. Mr Qarase was shocked."

Lal and Hunter say: "Had Commodore Bainimarama been arrested in New Zealand the Fiji military would have been unable and unwilling to proceed with the removal of the Qarase Government." The then US ambassador to Fiji, Larry Dinger, in a leaked cable supported this view: "An arrest abroad might be the only way to enforce a criminal charge and remove the Bainimarama thorn.”

Thank goodness the arrest did not go ahead. Labour’s foreign affairs spokesman at the time, Phil Goff, sums up the situation well. "Such a course of action would mean a country lost its credibility as a mediator for dealing with crises. I scarcely think you were going to lure a person here under false pretences only to arrest him. That would be seen as an ambush and bad faith and it wouldn’t have resolved the situation within Fiji. “

And as a reader commented: "Imagine the consequences if the commander of the Fiji Military Forces had been detained in NZ? It would have been seen in the Fiji military as tantamount to an act of war." But that's what Qarase, Hughes — and now Lal and Hunter —  were apparently prepared to risk.

Postscript.
ABC's Pacific Beat has taken up the story with an interview of Russell Hunter and NZ's Foreign Affairs Minister at the time, Winson Peters. Two questions are discussed: could/would NZ have arrested Bainimarama during his NZ visit; and would his arrest have prevented the 2006 Coup? On the first question, Peters says no but Hunter thinks maybe, and on the second question Hunter says yes, and Peters provides a rather muddled I don't think so.

Comments

Beyond the law said…
Croz
Are you suggesting that Bainimarama is beyond the law? There appears to be compelling evidence on a number of fronts for him to face an independent judicial enquiry? I have every confidence that justice will eventually prevail as it has in the case of others like Saddam, Bin Laden, Mubarak and in the near future Assad.
Anonymous said…
Bainimarama broke New Zealand law when, two weeks before his coup, he arrived at Auckland airport and told Fairfax that he was on holiday but would return home to stage his coup. Authorities collected an affidavit around that interview but did not act on it
Hunter and Rika said…
Russell Hunter knows better than Peters, the NZ foreign minister, about what is good for NZ!? Yes, we should trust and listen to Hunter, the man with a vendetta and clear conflict of interest.

A man with a well-known record of using every means to get back at his enemies - he used the Fiji Times to relentlessly attack the Chaudhry government; when he moved to Samoa as editor-in-chief he used the Samoan Observer to discredit and attack Fiji's geopolitical interests at every opportunity.

Now he is using the Auckland Times to achieve his aim.

Once Russell the Hunter "Bulldog" goes after you, you have no place to hide. He will not rest until he gets you, as Chaudhry found out.

Now Hunter wants Bainimarama ousted so he he boast he helped remove two Fiji PMs. Hunter has found an ally in the gullible Radio Australia, it seems. The sheer arrogance of this man raises one's temperature. He had the same colonial attitude in Fiji and Samoa.

During Hunter's tenure at the Fiji Times, a reporter who had an affair with former prime minister Rabuka was used to write stories against the man who toppled Rabuka as PM, Chauhry. This was on a daily basis.

Clear conflict of interest and totally unethical - it happened under Hunter's watch. It was deliberate because Hunter will stop at nothing to exact revenge.

It was blatant because this man thinks we in third world countries are stupid. He felt he was far too intelligent for the locals and the natives and could get away with anything.

This man did immense damage in Fiji. He damaged Fiji Times to such an extent that it was clear the paper's days were numbered. Hunter's antics in Fiji contributed to News Limited eventually losing ownership of the Fiji Times.

His protege, Netani Rika, with his colonised thinking, only drove the nail in deeper because he was a Hunter clone, with no strategic approach or independent mind. Rika, like Hunter, was blinded by his anti-Chaudhry and anti-Bainimarama zeal, and could not see beyond simplistic messages of media freedom. He loved the attention and enjoyed being in the limelight overseas as a champion of media freedom but did not follow journalistic ethics or basic decency by sending Rabuka's lover to cover stories on Chaudhry.

Yes, Fiji Times was a mess and a farce and a disaster under the Hunter Rika team but these two fancy themselves as some sort of crusaders on Fiji's behalf.

Hunter managed to use the Times to oust Chaudhry but such activities on the part of this expat editor eventually caught up with the paper.

The eventual price of Chaudhry's ouster was News Limited losing ownership.

Well done Hunter and Rika, you should be proud.

These two have been strutting around talking about media ethics and freedom of speech while having destroyed Fiji and the media in Fiji.

Hunter tried the same antics in Samoa.

Instead of improving Samoan Observer for the benefit of Samoans, he was using it to get at Bainimarama. Good thing the publisher kicked him out or he would have damaged that paper and that country too.

Russell Hunter is a dangerous man, do not be fooled by his rhetoric about freedom and all that.
My! My! My! said…
To Beyond the Law. Could you please share with us the "...compelling evidence.....";

and to Anonymous: Which Authorities were they that collected an affidavit and whose affidavit was it?

I'm intrigued.
Anonymous said…
Please, tell us which particular NZ law did Bainimarama break? Vague assertions that a law has been violated without giving any particulars of the offence are useless.
Walker Texas Ranger said…
No vague assertions concerning Russell Hunter. Hunter was Deputy Chairperson of Crimestoppers Fiji (appointed jointly by the late James Datta and Fiji Police Commissioner Isikeli Savua).

So what business did Hunter have in actually aiding and abetting criminal behaviour in Fiji? Indeed, he became part of it because he refuse to seriously take on Serious Organised Crime. Human Trafficking was already burgeoning; the murders of business people in Nadi had begun. He turned a deaf ear to much of this and, worse, carelessly exposed those who had evidence and who were determined to stem the evil tide rolling in fast: thus we are now where we are. He did, briefly, appoint an investigative reporter (from Australia) but that did not last long when members of the now illegal security-recruiting agency turned nasty along with Timoci Lolohea.

Bully for you, Russell Hunter! You played some narcissistic role without due care, attention and consideration for all those you harmed through your game-playing and deceits. You hastened the descent of Fiji and all who sail in her to a confirmed Third World Status and you encouraged "The Crims". What more may be said of you? Your photo posted above says much about you. Unlike the late Robert Keith Reid, you have no honour - just a veneer of general greasiness if not slipperiness.

You were a self-appointed Star in your own movie. Worthy of MGM Studios in a mega-production?

We rather think not.
Response to Texas Ranger said... said…
The crime stoppers position gave Russell some status. he never did any real work on the committee. The real work was done at the Vatuwaqa gold club.

The problem with us in Fiji is that we put some expats on a pedestal that they do not deserve. Some are in Fiji just for fun and adventure.
Oldest Profession said…
Looks like Russell and Rika prostituted journalism. What a shame!
Utter Depravity : 165 dead since January 1 2012 said…
It just goes to show that neither New Zealand, Australia, USA, UK and assorted others had a piecemeal understanding only of

the complexity

the threatening nature

the already entrenched erosion of Rule of Law

the daily threats of murder, rape, and violent harm

that were becoming part of the fabric of every day life in Fiji. The murders (Organised Crime) in one particular town stand as evidence of the utter ferocity of the onslaught.

Guarding teenagers to go to school
Daily telephoned threats of serious bodily harm
The streets infested with drug dealers
Visitors enticed and then threatened to purchase 'weed'
Gang violence
Home Invasions

What more do you want? But it the overseas states were in the dark, so either deliberately or negligently was the goverment. IT does not matter much WHICH government. There was NO EYE ON THE BALL of Serious Organised Crime for years and years. Not in such a way that the taxpayers and citizens would benefit.

In Jamaica, a Commonwealth Island State in the Caribbean, no fewer than 165 persons have been killed since 1 January 2012.

Yes, 165!

The Jamaican Government with a female PM just elected is promising to try to stem the killings (now running at 3 per day) to 1 a day by 2015. (Crude stats - sounds like CNN).

Have they a Hope in Hell? Most of the killings are shootings. All of the dead are civilians (some are Drug Lords or gang members)

Who is responsible? Where are the Police?

This type of activity coarsens the very fabric of a society. It hardens and encourages violence and violent thought. See the language on the blogsites? What is it in the main but utterly depraved?
Anonymous said…
Russell worked for Rupert Murdoch. What do u except frm him. Just see how Rupert's newspaper were operating in England .
Freedom from newsroom tyrants said…
I am no supporter of the regime, or their media law, but it seems the Fiji Times has been dangerously irresponsible. I regretted Russell's departure and the sale of Fiji Times. But it seems it was a blessing in disguise given the havoc created by the paper. The fact that the paper deliberately set out to undermine the Chaudhry government and practised skirt journalism shows the shocking extent of deterioration and rot under Russell/Rika. Media in Fiji needs a fresh start. Russell and Rika, part of the old guard, should be banished forever.
Unmasking the Unwise said…
what an unfortunate surname Margaret Wise has? It scarcely seems credible that someone so overtly unethical and irresponsible should have come by such a label? Is it possible to have wrought so much harm at the behest of other people and still remain a human being?

How does such an 'unwise' person add value to a media enterprise? It would be so interesting to find out.
Sowing wild oats said…
I believe Ms Wise filed a successful paternity petition against Rabuka. I am told she was re-hired by the Fiji Times and is still with the newspaper. Does this sound odd or is it just me getting too old?

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