Many fear that Fiji is dangerously close to its fourth coup in 20 years, including Fiji’s Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes. The ball is now mostly in military commander Frank Bainimarama’s court, he says. “If he continues to escalate this, there is an end game.”  That’s the coup that Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has labelled “more likely than unlikely” ahead of an emergency meeting of Pacific ministers in Sydney this Friday.  Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has made repeated threats to topple Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase’s government, accusing it of corruption, for which he could be slapped with sedition charges.  The Australian Defence Force has now cancelled all leave for special forces troops as it sets plans in motion for the evacuation of 700 Australian nationals in the event of a coup in Fiji, reports The Fiji Times.  Here’s what one Fijian news outlet, Fijivillage, had to say about the situation:

In the past we have tended to brush off periodic coup scares as part of a cycle determined largely by the moods of the Commander. Well this time it is different. Fiji stands right on the edge of a very deep hole. Time to make choices. This isn’t something we are terribly good at. Our national reflex is to avoid, defer, delay when it comes to conflict but “the cycle” has now tightened to such an extent that this is no longer an option, either the democratically elected government and the rule of law prevails and the Commander falls or he will prevail and the government and democracy in Fiji will fall.

How did it come to this? As you would expect, this being Fiji, there are plenty of grand conspiracy theories but the truth is most probably a lot more chaotic than many would have us believe. We suspect that the Commander and the military have been caught a little by surprise and suddenly the “impasse” has crowded in on them. After years of bluster and muttering up at the camp they have been called to account by Commissioner Hughes and his men in blue.

In the past they have avoided this process relying on the President’s office to provide an escape hatch and that is what was planned this time around but now this has been exposed prematurely. It is now “put up or shut up time” hence the very tense situation we face over the next few days.

Peter Fray

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