KEEP SANCTIONS IN PLACE

July 18, 2010

Australia’s relationship with Fiji ‘at its worst’

Major-General Rabuka says relations between Fiji and Australia have never been so low. (AFP: Reuters)
Former Fijian prime minister Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka has criticised Australia’s ongoing travel bans on Fiji’s military.
The visa restrictions were imposed after the 2006 coup led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
Last month, two key Fijian rugby players were banned from entering Australia to play the Wallabies in Canberra.
Major-General Rabuka, a former rugby player himself, has told Sunday Profile the bans are making Fijians feel as if they are under siege.
“We see it as a sanction against the people of Fiji and the Fiji national team and it’s pushing us into a consolidated position against Australia or against those are bringing up these kind of sanctions against us,” he said.
Major-General Rabuka says relations with Australia have never been so low.
Two top Australian diplomats have been expelled from Fiji in the last eight months.
Australia’s Acting High Commissioner Sarah Roberts left earlier this week after being accused of a campaign to discredit Fiji’s interim government.
Last November, the high commissioner and his New Zealand counterpart were removed over alleged interference in Fiji’s judiciary.
Major-General Rabuka says there were tough times between the two countries when he led two military coups in 1987, but relations have never been this bad.
“In 1987 after I took over from the elected government of Dr Bavada we also had some very difficult times,” he said.
“We weren’t seeing eye to eye but we didn’t resort to expulsion apart from the Indian high commissioner who was asked to leave.”

NB

Rabuka cavuka does not specify that it is only the people directly involved with the 5.12.06 coup, that is, the wannabee leaders & their families + the soldiers and their immediate families who are banned.

It’s simple, no participation in the coup allows one to travel anywhere in the world.

NO FRIENDS, NO MONEY, WHAT’S AN ILLEGAL REGIME TO DO?

July 16, 2010

Fiji to learn soon who are its ‘friends’

  • Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor
  • From: The Australian
  • July 16, 2010

FIJI’S military regime is waiting for replies to the invitations it has sent for its version of a Pacific islands’ leaders summit.

It has rebadged the meeting “Friends of Fiji”.

It will thus learn by next week how small its international space has shrunk; how many – or how few – friends it truly has.

Foreign Minister  Inoke Kubuobola was to have announced on Wednesday the names of the leaders who would attend the meeting next week. But following a meeting with his top officials to consider the attendees, no statement emerged then, nor had it by last night.

The minister merely said yesterday that “many Pacific leaders have indicated their willingness to support Fiji’s progress”.

After being suspended a year ago from the Pacific Islands Forum – the supreme body in the region, of which the 14 island countries, Australia and New Zealand are members – Fiji refocused its efforts on the smaller Melanesian Spearhead Group.

Although Fiji’s ruler, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, said that Mr Natapei’s announcement was purely personal, the secretariat of the MSG later confirmed that this was indeed the position of the group.

The Fiji leader blamed Australia for engineering this setback, and expelled its acting high commissioner, Sarah Roberts, who flew home on Wednesday.

Commodore Bainimarama yesterday said he was reluctant to agree to a replacement, for fear of continued Australian meddling. “What is the use of setting guidelines when we all know they will not work under any guidelines we set for them?”

He had sought to turn the MSG meeting – involving Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and the indigenous Kanak party of New Caledonia, as well as Vanuatu – into an “MSG Plus” show of solidarity for himself, by inviting other islands’ leaders.

He intended, by doing so, to demonstrate on the eve of the Pacific Islands Forum’s annual summit, in Port Vila, Vanuatu, next month, that it is Australia and New Zealand that are isolated in the region, and that the 14 island countries’ leaders favour Fiji. When the MSG meeting was scrapped, this solidarity demonstration was renamed “Friends of Fiji”, to be held next Thursday and Friday at the Intercontinental Resort in Nadi.

The timing at first seemed ideal. PNG Prime Minister Michael Somare would be in Fiji to participate in the annual Mara Cup golf-diplomacy gathering, as would Solomon Islands Prime Minister Derek Sikua, to open his country’s new chancery in Suva.

But the drumbeats towards a parliamentary vote of no confidence are pulling Sir Michael to stay in Port Moresby, while it is hard for Mr Sikua to take two days out of campaigning three weeks out from an election.

Kiribati President Anote Tong visited Suva last week and is considered a chance to return.

Some countries may ask their ambassadors to attend but it is looking as if the table for the “Friends of Fiji” need only be a small one.

WE ALL KNEW OINK WAS LYING ALL ALONG

July 16, 2010

Fiji leader issues threat to election, blaming foreign `interference’

Michael McKenna From: The Australian July 14, 2010

 FIJIAN dictator Frank Bainimarama has flagged postponing elections for a second time, blaming interference from Australia and New Zealand.
Less than a day after expelling Australia’s acting high commissioner, Sarah Roberts, the military leader said yesterday he was “seriously thinking” of postponing his 2014 election timetable as he dealt with a regional snub over his failure to restore democracy to the Pacific nation.

Commodore Bainimarama seized power in 2006 and cancelled promised 2009 elections, before last year dumping the constitution and judiciary after the Supreme Court ruled that his military government was illegitimate.

Ms Roberts was given until today to leave the capital, Suva, with her family. She had replaced James Batley, who was expelled in November.

Julia Gillard condemned the move.

“We will be making very, very clear to Fiji our protest about this unreasonable and uncalled-for action,” the Prime Minister said in Canberra.

“Obviously, our attitude to this is we are gravely concerned that Fiji continues to take itself beyond and outside the workings of the international community.”

Commodore Bainimarama said he had decided to oust Ms Roberts after the cancellation of the Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting in Suva next week.

Speaking on Auckland radio, Commodore Bainimarama said Australia had pressured Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei, the chairman of the group, to cancel the meeting and it had also led him to reconsider the 2014 elections.

“In fact, I am all of a sudden thinking we might not be ready for 2014 for election if we don’t get any assistance from Australia and New Zealand, for instance,” he said. “If we reach 2014 and we are not ready because of constant interfering, we are not going to give up our government to political parties.

“I am seriously thinking about the date of the elections, the interference by these people, but I can tell you nothing is going to stop us from doing what needs to be done continuing on this pathway — we need reforms.”

In an earlier statement, Mr Natapei indicated that the meeting had been deferred because of Commodore Bainimarama’s failure to return the country to democracy.

The diplomatic stoush follows the condemnation of the regime’s crackdown on press freedom in Fiji, with a media decree that includes two-year jail terms for editors and journalists whose work is deemed against “the public interest or order, is against national interest, offends against good taste or decency or creates communal discord”.

It also orders that media outlets must be 90 per cent owned by Fijian citizens who live permanently in the island nation.

The Fiji Times, the oldest (founded in 1869) and largest of the country’s newspapers, is wholly owned by News Limited, publisher of The Australian. It has three months to comply with the decree or be closed down.

News Limited chairman and chief executive John Hartigan last night announced the appointment of PricewaterhouseCoopers to advise the company on its interests in The Fiji Times.

THERE GOES THE NEIGHBOURHOOD

July 16, 2010

Melanesia abandons pariah of Pacific

 Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor

 From: The Australian July 14, 201

 FIJI’S regime has virtually lost all support.
THE Fiji military regime of Frank Bainimarama has just suffered the most severe dent to its status this year.

It appears that the quixotic coup leader has been abandoned by some of his last international supporters, with the postponement of the Melanesian Spearhead Group leaders’ meeting, which was scheduled to be held in Fiji next week.

The timing could not have been worse – on the eve of the annual leaders’ summit in Port Vila, Vanuatu, of the Pacific Islands Forum, from which Fiji was suspended last year, but to which it has kept hoping its regional friends would restore it.

Flailing against this blow, the Suva regime has kicked out yet another Australian diplomat, this time acting high commissioner Sarah Roberts.

Bainimarama has found it impossible to accept the message first from the forum and now from the MSG that it is not just Australia and to a lesser extent New Zealand that have conspired as Great and Lesser Satans to confound him internationally, but that his regime is viewed as unacceptable virtually everywhere, even in fellow Melanesian countries.

His strategy after being dumped from the forum was to leverage Fiji’s position as a continuing member of the MSG – with Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the pro-Kanak party of New Caledonia – to create a new Pacific grouping excluding Australia and New Zealand.

Fiji concerns prevent talks

July 16, 2010

A GROUPING of Pacific nations has cancelled a leaders’ summit in Fiji over concerns about a lack of democratic reform.

The Melanesian Spearhead Group called the move a “collective decision” and urged Fiji’s military ruler Frank Bainimarama to attend talks in Vanuatu to discuss the matter.

“There are basic fundamental principles and values of democracy and good governance that our organisation is built on and we must continue to uphold them,” Vanuatu Prime Minister Edward Natapei, the current MSG chairman, said in a statement.

The MSG, which groups Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and nationalists from the French territory of New Caledonia, was due to meet this month under a rotational system of hosting and chairing summits.

But the MSG had been concerned over having the talks led by Fiji, which last month announced a media crackdown which will effectively close its oldest and biggest newspaper, the Fiji Times. “This is a collective decision of the leaders . . . in light of the current impasse within the grouping over the chairmanship of the MSG,” Mr Natapei said.

Mr Bainimarama overthrew the elected government in 2006 in a bloodless coup and has postponed democratic elections until 2014, earning widespread condemnation abroad.

Fiji is already suspended from the commonwealth and the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum and has been hit with sanctions by the EU and countries including the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Mr Natapei’s statement, issued over the weekend, contrasts sharply with MSG’s communique last year, when it backed Fiji’s government and its “roadmap” towards democracy.

The statement said Fiji’s preparations for the talks were at an advanced stage, but added the “potential long-term ramifications of allowing Fiji to chair the MSG this time cannot be ignored”.

“I have also advised Commodore Bainimarama of our decision and invited him to attend a special meeting of the MSG leaders here in Vanuatu to resolve this matter,” Mr Natapei said.

Mr Bainimarama also sacked the judiciary and expelled diplomats from Australia and New Zealand last year, heightening criticism of his regime.

TOUGH LOVE WASTED ON THE ILLEGAL REGIME

July 16, 2010

Finding our way around Fiji

  • From: The Australian
  • July 14, 2010

Australia’s ‘tough love’ stance is the only option

MORE than three years after the coup that destroyed Fiji’s democracy, Australia remains determined to keep some semblance of diplomatic relations with the Bainimarama regime. Not that Foreign Minister Stephen Smith has many options in dealing with a country that has virtually torn up its constitution, curtailed speech and media freedom, sacked the judiciary, ordered foreigners to sell down media interests to 10 per cent, and makes a habit of ejecting our senior diplomats. Trade sanctions would hurt ordinary people and tit-for-tat diplomacy would end any chance of dialogue, given Fiji has only one representative left in Canberra. Since the December 2006 coup, Australia’s approach has been to stay calm and paddle below the surface.

Commodore Bainimarama says he will hold elections in 2014, but as he lobbies for a $594 million loan from the International Monetary Fund, he may come under pressure to bring them forward, although yesterday he was signalling they could be even later. Since the coup, he has had trouble selling Fiji’s attractions: Moody’s downgraded Fiji two notches from BA2 to B1, unimpressed with its “coup culture” and a 6.6 per cent drop in GDP in 2007. In May this year, Moody’s estimated GDP would fall 2.4 per cent in 2009 before rising by 1.9 per cent in 2010. And while Fiji devalued its dollar by 20 per cent last year, sugar and tourism revenues are under pressure, even with heavily discounted holiday packages. The country’s debt-to-export ratio has almost doubled in the past six years and is estimated by Moody’s to rise to 31 per cent this year.

Fiji is paying a high economic and diplomatic price, but there is little evidence it will back down from martial law. And even as Australia tries to keep the door open, it is difficult, as Mr Smith says, to have a one-way dialogue.

ILLEGAL REGIMES OFFENSIVE CHARADE AT GOVENANCE

July 9, 2010

The brutish illegal regime is very quick to jump up and down like the the ignorant, incompetents they are as soon as facts are revealed about their inappropriate behaviours.

Not so tough huh?

The harrassment and assault of innocent citizens going about their business, sacking and jailing of workers in the ordinary conduct of their duties are frightening examples of the breakdown of the constitutionally guaranteed rule of law.

Depriving anyone of their human right to voice an opinion, read the TRUTH in a newspaper of their choice, retain employment without being discharged for no reason, just for being an individual without being bashed to death is what the illegal regime has imposed on the citizens of Fiji since 5.12.2006.

You don’t believe it?

The statistics speak for themselves.

It is not a joke, nor is it made up.

Read back on this blogsite and on other pro democracy sites, then speak to the relatives of those who have been harmed or killed by the military thugs, or better still visit the cemeteries where the murdered are buried.

What further proof does one need.

The International media have not lied about the atrocities that have been committed since the ignominious illegal regime imposed its irrelevant will on the citizens of Fiji and its beautiful land, wrecking it to its very core.

‘WOE IS ME’ WAIL THE BRUTISH ILLEGAL REGIME

July 9, 2010
Fiji hits back at media reports of a bullying state

  • Michael McKenna
  • From: The Australian

THE Fijian military regime has accused the Australian government and media of inciting revolution and promoting unrest in the troubled island nation.

Self-appointed ruler Frank Bainimarama yesterday joined a chorus of his ministers and bureaucrats in condemning coverage of his government, particularly since the imposition of a crackdown on local media in Fiji last week. Commodore Bainimarama, Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola and Information Department Secretary Sharon Smith-Johns — an Australian expatriate who is in charge of the local press crackdown — have attacked reports, published by News Limited and Fairfax.

In a statement, Commodore Bainimarama also called on the Australian government to “refrain from interfering with” Fiji’s internal affairs after an unnamed Australian Foreign Affairs official said in an article in The Australian on Monday: “The sad fact is that if the economy gets really bad, then the people may have no choice but to stand up to him and his thugs.”

“This statement the Prime Minister said is inciting the people of Fiji to rise against my government, and promoting further unrest,” the Fijian regime’s statement said.

“Commodore Bainimarama said by calling my government ministers ‘thugs’ is derogatory, mischievous and portrays the condescending attitude of the Australian government.”

On Monday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade also complained to this newspaper about the quote in the feature-length article on Fiji, titled “Perfect One Day, Brutal the Next”. The report details the history of the Bainimarama regime, which overthrew an elected government in 2006, and the subsequent human rights abuses.

Mr Kubuabola also criticised an article in The Sydney Morning Herald, which reported details of decrees imposed on the population by the regime, and the arrest of a Fijian pastor. He said the articles were damaging the local tourism industry and questioned the motivation of reporters, in a reference to the recent decree that may force the closure of The Fiji Times, a News Limited newspaper.

CALLS FOR FREEDOM OF THE PRESS GO UNHEEDED IN FIJI

July 5, 2010

 High price of freedom for Fijians

  • From: The Advertiser
  • July 03, 2010 2:13AM

FREEDOM is not free. The right to live as we choose, to decide our own future, lifestyle and government is the result of centuries of hard-won victories over the efforts of the powerful to restrict freedom rather than enhance it.

So it is in Fiji, that South Pacific island nation which for too long now has been under the thumb of a military-backed regime that has denied its people their basic rights.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who led the 2006 coup that ousted the elected government, has sought to rule by censorship, intimidation and fear.

Now, in his latest shameful attack on his country’s freedoms, he has introduced a new and pernicious law designed to kill off any independent journalistic scrutiny.

The Media Industry Development Decree will force all local media companies to be 90 per cent owned by Fijians.

The impact will, most likely, be the end of one of the region’s longest-running newspapers, the Fiji Times , founded in 1869.

It is owned by News Limited, also the publisher of this newspaper.

The Fiji Times , its editors and its brave Fijian reporters, have sought in the face of bullying, threats and censors in their newsroom to keep the people of Fiji informed about what is really going on in their country.

At times, to make a point, the paper has been published with white space where articles would have run had they not been excised by the regime.

Now this new law will not only force foreign owners out but impose the threat of hefty fines and five-year jail terms for journalists whose articles are deemed by the regime to be against public interest or order, the national interest, good taste, decency or which create communal discord.

In other words, anything the government doesn’t like.

And – as in other dictatorial regimes such as Myanmar and North Korea – one thing the government does not tolerate at all is criticism.

The new law is a particularly heavy blow to the 180 staff of the Fiji Times who have laboured under enormous stress to continue bringing their readers the news that is important.

In circumstances we would struggle to understand, they have endured bullying, the prospect of deportation, jail, and thuggery just to do their jobs.

These are ordinary men and women, mostly Fijians, doing extraordinary work.

They have not tried to be vindictive or sensational in their reporting.

They simply have been committed to their jobs – to keep their readers informed, and when possible, the government accountable.

So while it is wrong-headed, anti-democratic, and will ultimately prove to be self-defeating, it is unsurprising the coup leaders have taken this option.

A free media is one of the greatest bulwarks against tyranny.

It is why the Americans made the First Amendment to the US Constitution one which protects the right of the press, and the individual, to free speech.

It is why Napoleon Bonaparte once said: “Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets.”

The new law is against the interests of Fiji, and ultimately it is Fijians who will be the losers from this latest blow to their rights and freedoms.

But it will not endure.

Freedom is not free but as history shows, men and women have always been prepared to pay its price.

Perfect one day, brutal the next

July 5, 2010
  • Michael McKenna and Rory Callinan
  • From: The Australian
  • July 05, 2010

Fiji resorts

Source: The Australian

AUSTRALIAN academic Brij Lal wasn’t expecting trouble when he was called to the front gate of his family home in Suva.

But when the Canberra-based, Fijian-born professor, researching a new book in the island nation’s capital, looked down the driveway and saw four burly men leaning against unmarked government four-wheel-drives, he knew something was very wrong.

His fears were confirmed when he heard the chilling command: “Come with us, you are needed up at the barracks.”

The long-time headquarters of Fiji’s military, the Queen Elizabeth II barracks, high up on the hill overlooking Suva, has also become the sinister beacon of power for dictator Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama.

Since overthrowing the democratically elected government of Laisenia Qarase in 2006, scores of Bainimarama’s opponents have been hauled to the barracks where they have been held for days, sometimes weeks, beaten and, in the case of some women, had their heads shaved before being marched to exhaustion.

Despite being an Australian citizen, Lal realised as he sat book-ended by two plain-clothed soldiers in the back of the 4WD, that he was about to receive a nasty lesson in what happens when you don’t respect the coup.

“As I was being led away, I called out to my wife, ‘Quick, ring the Australian embassy’,” Lal says in his first interview about his detention last November.

“I wasn’t that worried because I was standing up for what I believed in. But fear is always at the back of your mind when you are dealing with people who are not rational.”

Several hours before in a radio interview, he had dared to express concern about the then-recent expulsion of the Australian high commissioner James Batley and his New Zealand counterpart for allegedly interfering in the appointment of Sri Lankan judges to Fiji’s judiciary.

At the QEII barracks, Lal, a professor of Pacific and Asian history at the Australian National University, was locked up in a barren, 4m by 6m concrete prison cell.

He sat for two hours until the cell door opened and before him stood Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho, one of Bainimarama’s most feared and fanatically loyal underlings.

Qiliho immediately launched into a verbal assault.

“Qiliho reminded me about the reality on the ground and that the military was fully in control and that my views were not acceptable,” Lal recalls.

“He said we didn’t understand the noble motives and the intentions of the military for Fiji; he was yelling and pushed me at one point and my glasses fell off and broke on the ground.”

Lal says he was saved from further harassment after Qiliho took a phone call. To this day, he doesn’t know who called the military thug.

“He went out for five minutes and then came back and said, ‘All right, you can go, but I don’t want to see you around here. I want you to take the first flight out of Fiji.’

“These are people who are used to a different rule, marching to a different step, for whom freedom of speech [is an] alien value.”

Lal took the next flight to Australia and has since been banned from returning to his country with his wife who, at the time, was also working in Suva.

For many Australians, his treatment by the military government would have come as a surprise.

The bloodless 2006 coup may have rocked diplomatic ranks and fuelled instability between Melanesian countries, but it has barely registered within the wider communities of the region.

Tens of thousands of holidaymakers, mainly from Australia and New Zealand, have seized on the discounted packages of desperate Fiji resorts and airlines that have been on offer since the coup in December 2006.

But few tourists get to see how Fijians live under martial law. In Suva, just a few hours’ drive from the Coral Coast resorts, the government of Bainimarama, a career soldier and rugby fanatic, has become increasingly erratic and oppressive.

It is a far cry from the early days after Bainimarama’s coup – the fourth in 20 years – in which he espoused the pursuit of noble causes: ridding the country of its enshrined racism against the dwindling Indo-Fijian population, and holding elections in 2009.

The election timeframe has now blown out to at least 2014, with the constitution and judiciary dumped last year after a court ruling against the legitimacy of the Bainimarama government.

Over the past four years, Bainimarama has also seized control of state assets, taken control of the police and the public service by appointing coup sympathisers, re-established an internal spy service and deported foreign journalists.

The rule of law has been replaced by a cascade of decrees drafted by his confidant, Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, that serves his regime and outlaws any dissent.

In the past year there have been more than 50 legally binding decrees that cover anything from children’s school homework to February’s crime decree, which permits a coup if “it is done with good intention”. Most have gone unnoticed outside Fiji.

But last week, the latest decree – the media industry development decree – drew worldwide condemnation for its repression of a free press.

The decree includes two-year jail terms for editors and journalists whose work is deemed against “the public interest or order, is against national interest, offends against good taste or decency or creates communal discord”.

It also orders that media outlets must be 90 per cent owned by Fijian citizens who live permanently in the island nation.

The Fiji Times, the oldest, (founded in 1869) and largest of the country’s newspapers, is wholly owned by News Limited, publisher of The Australian. It has three months to comply with the decree or be closed down.

The law follows intimidation of reporters by soldiers, deportation of foreign-born newspaper executives and, last year, imposition of censors into newsrooms to ban “negative” stories about the government.

The man charged with overseeing the new media laws, former Canberra academic Satendra Nandan admits the foreign ownership changes are directed at the Fiji Times because of its coverage of the regime, particularly after the scrapping of the judiciary and constitution last year.

“The Fiji Times is an institution, a part of everyday life here, and has a number of very fine journalists,” he says.

“We had a media that was vibrant and vigilant until things went wrong in 2006 and then some parts of the media became abusive and scurrilous.

“The Fiji Times took a strong stand against the current government and the abrogation of the constitution and they didn’t consider the national interest.”

But beyond the democratic ramifications of the media decree is the predicted impact of the retrospective crackdown on foreign investment like that of News, which bought the Fiji Times 23 years ago.

Former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka, the first coup leader, who was elected in 1992 and held power until 1999, said it would send the wrong message to international business.

“I am worried that future foreign investors will be scared away because there is no certainty with Fiji laws,” he says. “And no local will buy [the Fiji Times] in the next three months because any prospective buyer will be worried about the next decree, and then the next, under this government.”

On Friday, Bainimarama rejected the view that the media decree would hurt foreign investment or that it would have a “positive effect on access to accurate information”.

“Fiji has a vibrant and growing media industry in print, broadcasting and the new media, with lots of potential for investment,” he told Auckland-based Radio Tarana.

“Currently we have 14-plus media outlets, not including internet. While the Fiji Times claims to be a vital source of independent news, so are the other media outlets.”

Since the coup, the international community – including Australia, New Zealand and the Europeam Union (which has a long tradition of giving aid to the region) – has been careful not to damage the wider Fijian community in their efforts to return the country to democracy.

Australia and New Zealand have imposed travel sanctions on members of the regime, military and their sympathisers. Fiji has also been suspended as a member of the Pacific Islands Forum.

But both the Howard and Rudd governments, with the full support of foreign affairs officials, have refused to take any further action for fear it might damage the local economy.

“Trade sanctions and the like are not on the table, it would only hurt the average mum and dad who are trying to support their families,” one Australian foreign affairs official says.

But the Fijian economy is far from robust, with the falling price of sugar (the country’s main export) and half-empty resorts, despite the discounts and a 20 per cent devaluation of the Fiji dollar this year.

The fragility of the economy was confirmed on Friday by Bainimarama in delivering the country’s budget as finance minister.

In his budget, Bainimarama says the government’s deficit – which had been capped at 3.5 per cent of GDP – is now hovering at about 5 per cent.

Bainimarama also canvassed moves to seek a loan of around $F1 billion (about $594 million) from the IMF to inject into the economy.

He is unlikely to get the loan without making moves towards an earlier election – and such moves don’t appear to be on the cards.

But the dire situation may force the dictator’s hand or that of the community he rules with fear.

One Australian foreign affairs official says the Fijian people are now inclined to accept the Bainimarama regime.

“They are not complacent, but they are resigned to the situation and they want to get on with life,” he says. “Bainimarama has been looking comfortable.

“The sad fact is that if the economy gets really bad, then the people may have no choice but to stand up to him and his thugs.”