Excerpts from Fiji: Coups in Paradise by Victor Lal
The Fateful May 1987
‘The Fiji Indians awoke to mark the day on which exactly 108 years ago the first Indian ‘coolies’ arrived in Fijian waters aboard the Leonidas. The former Prime Minister Ratu Mara, who had celebrated his 67th birthday the previous day, was still struggling to come to terms with his new role as Leader of the Opposition. It was exactly three years since his predecessor and arch-rival, Jai Ram Reddy, had resigned both as leader of the NFP and as Member of Parliament…In short, democracy died in Fiji on 14 May 1987.’
The role of Sitiveni Rabuka, now stripped of his prime minister’s pension, car, power and glory:
‘I had had a gutful. I wanted to leave the Army because I knew deep inside me that I could not support a Coalition Government,’ Rabuka now admits. It has also been disclosed that the RFMF had booked airline tickets in his name to arrive in Sydney, on 11 May, three days before the coup, but Rabuka had not collected the ticket. Fiji’s army had been invited to participate in a ‘skill at arms’ competition organized by the Australian Army.'
Various armies throughout the world were involved and Rabuka was to have attended the events as observer. Rabuka and others, backed by a racist faction of the influential Methodist Church of Fiji, however, had already secretly planned to overthrow the Coalition government. Two of them, the Reverend Tomasi Rakivi, a cousin of Rabuka’s, and General Secretary of the Fiji Council of Churches, and Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, President of the Fiji Council of Churches and secretary of the Bible Society of the South pacific, were to play a key role in the future course of events.’
‘It was Kubuabola, a cousin of Ratu Penaia [Ganilau], who first termed the extreme Fijian nationalist organization as the Taukei Movement, and he was the direct link with Rabuka.
While contradicting Rabuka’s assertion that ‘there was no complicity beyond the essential military personnel who were involved in the pre-coup organisation’, Kubuabola (right) told Islands Business (May 1988), that for more than six hours on April 19 he and Rabuka, later joined by Jone Veisamasama, ‘talked about different options’.
It was one 19 April that the groundwork for the coup was laid and according to Kubuabola, 11 May was the day his co-conspirators decided to proceed with its execution. He also claims that when it was learnt that Parliament would not sit on Friday they had to bring forward the coup to Thursday.'
According to Kubuabola: ‘By four [p.m. 19 April] we spent some time in prayer and option and we asked Rabuka to prepare his side of things, you know, the military option. And all the things we were doing were the lead up. We asked Rabuka to prepare that side and when the time, when we reach a stage when he must step in, he must be ready to step in. We changed it [the coup] to Thursday on Wednesday night in my office at the Bible Society with Rabuka.’
To be continued.
Editor’s Note: If the 2006 coup was executed to make Fiji ‘race free’, can Frank Bainimarama explain to us why he has in his Government one of the key racists from 1987 in Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, now running around the world as Fiji’s unelected Minister of Foreign Affairs?