An excerp from the David Robie’s book Blood on their Banner.
“OUR chiefs,” said Taniela Veitata, now an Opposition MP, “are really the guardians of the peace in Fiji.” A day after he and his Taukei colleagues had been plotting the next stage in the plan to depose Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra, Veitata was laying down the law in Parliament about racism.
“Peace is quite distinct, Mr Speaker, from the political philosophy of Mao Zedong where he said that political power comes out of the barrel of a gun. In Fiji, there is no gun. But our chiefs are there; we respect them …”
Seven minutes later, at the stroke of ten o’clock, ten soldiers wearing gasmasks burst into the chamber.
“Sit down everybody, sit down,” barked the squad leader, a captain disguised by a balaclava and brandishing a 9mm pistol. “This is a takeover. Ladies and gentlemen, this is a military takeover. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. You are requested to stay cool, stay down and listen to what we are going to tell you.”
Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Ligamamada Rabuka, dressed in a suit and a sulu stood up in the public gallery. He strode towards the Speaker – his uncle, Militoni Leweniqila.
“Please stay calm, ladies and gentlemen,” Rabuka said. “Mr Prime Minister, please lead your team down the right,” the colonel said. “Policemen, keep the passage clear. Stay down, remain calm. Mr Prime Minister, sir, will you lead your team now.”
Outside in the corridor, Ratu Finau Mara, son of the former Prime Minister [Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara], stood making sure the passage was clear. A back-up team of about 12 soldiers in full combat gear and armed with M16 assault rifles waited there. Moments earlier, Finau Mara had been making room in the passage for the soldiers to enter Parliament.
Shocked, Bavadra, his cabinet ministers and MPs were led outside at gunpoint to two waiting military trucks and ordered to get in.
Education Minister Dr Tupeni Baba, noticing uncertainty on the face of a soldier near him, made a gesture of resistance. “We’re not going on the trucks,” he said.
“Dou raici koyo, sa lako yani oqori,” snapped the captain. “Watch out for that one heading your way.”
Rabuka grabbed a loaded M16 from a nearby soldier and cocked it at Baba’s head. Baba, the most outspoken of any of the indigenous Fijian ministers, moved but still protested defiantly.
This item is courtesy of Café Pacific and is an excerpt from David Robie’s Blood on their Banner: Nationalist Struggles in the South Pacific (Zed Books, London, 1989), pp. 218-219.