Those who said that Commodore Bainimarama was just bluffing, and that Fijians would work out their problems peacefully, have been proved wrong. On Tuesday the Commodore tore up the rule book, declared himself head of state and placed the elected prime minister under arrest.

John Howard turned down Prime Minister Qarase's request for Australian military help, and while the decision smacks of cowardice and racism (would a coup in New Zealand be treated with the same sang-froid?) it was inevitable: the time for assistance was weeks or months ago.