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Runaway colonel puts Fiji in focus

By Kevin Childs - posted Wednesday, 25 May 2011

At opposite ends of the globe two island nations, Greece and Fiji, are now bizarrely parallel. From 1967 to 1974 Greece was under the boot of Army colonels after a coup. The British were then asked to boycott Greek products and not to holiday in Greece.

There is a strong argument that the same should now be done for Fiji, with sporting ties cut as well. Once Rugby players and basketballers can't travel, the regime could start to wobble.

And it does take a low sense of morality to opt for a cheap-o break on a Fiji island, while ignoring what's happening there.


Now the former commander of Fiji's infantry regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara, after escaping by sea, has added his voice to those who say not to holiday in the unhappy isles.

He also says he wants to expose what Fiji's media is banned from reporting.

"What the majority of people in Fiji don't know is that poverty has increased in Fiji by over 50 percent in the last five years. Everyone is having trouble feeding their families and sending their children to school, but what they do not know is that unemployment is increasing, except for the many people who have lost their jobs, and they don't know that the national public debt is rising faster than ever."

Adding to the farce, Mara taunted Fiji's military strongman Frank Bainimarama, who said Mara's boat did not, as Mara said, send a distress signal and that the Tongan boat intruded into Fiji waters to pick up Mara.

"The commodore has never qualified as a naval officer from any naval academy so his confusion of two points on the charts which are 100 miles apart, though understandable, bodes ill for the Fijian Navy," said Mara.

"Does the dictator now suggest that, having found shipwrecked victims in future they should now be interrogated by the crew of the rescue craft and put back in the water if they were found to have been critical of the military regime?


Mara has been making use of YouTube to repeat his distress story.

"The brotherhood of the sea, in an emergency demands that the saving of life temporarily supersedes bureaucratic considerations of sovereignty," he says.

New Zealand is considering dropping a travel ban on Mara, who faces an extradition hearing after fleeing to Tonga. Fiji yesterday lodged an application to extradite him on a charge of making seditious comments. He and another high-ranking official, Brigadier General Pita Driti, are accused of inciting rebellion.

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About the Author

Kevin Childs is a freelance journalist and author, and a member of the board of the United Nations Association of Australia, Victoria.

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