|TREASONOUS LEADERS: 1987 Sitiveni Rabuka, 2000 George Speight, 2006 Voreqe Bainimarama|
" ... Ladies and gentlemen, this is a military takeover. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. ... Stay cool, stay down and listen to what we are going to tell you."
It was ten o'clock on the morning of Thursday 14 May 1987, after only just month in power, the democratically-elected government of Fiji was overthrown in a coup d'état conducted by the third-in-command of the Royal Fiji Military Forces, Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka.
The morning session of Fiji's House of Representatives was on when 10 masked soldiers entered and one of them yelled: "Sit down everybody. ... Ladies and gentlemen, this is a military takeover. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. ... Stay cool, stay down and listen to what we are going to tell you."
Rabuka, dressed in a suit, had been watching from the public gallery.
He stood up, walked over to the Coalition's Fijian leader, Timoci Bavadra, and said, "Mr. Prime Minister, please lead your team down the right ."
Bavadra looked around at his stunned colleagues, and at the 'immobile faces of the Alliance Opposition seated across the chamber.
"Very well", he replied, "Under protest. Come along, gentlemen. Let us comply in a dignified and correct manner."
As they moved off, Bavadra turned to Education Minister Tupeni Baba, another Fijian member of the Labour Party, and asked: "Is this really happening? A coup d'état in Fiji?"
And so it began.