Good morning from Fiji - perhaps you'll excuse me for feeling rather
confused today. Two nights ago the rampaging supporters of the George
Speight Fiji insurrection destroyed part of the TV station that was a mere
three minutes from my home. We heard gunshots. A policeman was murdered.
Then the army imposed a forty eight hour curfew. That was announced on the
afternoon news at five o'clock. And the curfew was to start at 6 p.m. The
one small problem for us at that time was that we were cooking a roast
dinner and it would not be ready until after six o'clock. And guess what -
we had invited a friend for dinner. We did a quick shave of the cooked part
of the roast and took her home to beat the curfew time. Then we locked the
doors. At around a quarter past five, the NZ embassy give us a polite phone
call- saying- it's time to get out of Paradise, mate. I took a double take.
If we had decided to go, we had to be out of the house in three quarters of
an hour and in Nadi by six - a four hour drive. Anyway we planned to stay in
Suva, so there was no problem there.
The we heard the news at seven o'clock and more excitement - the curfew
start was being extended until eight. Some people were having a panic - and
I suppose the army was being considerate of people who were out and about.
Nice, eh! We then heard from a friend at the university who had no transport
and faced the prospect of staying in his office for two days in the same
clothes with no food or walking around the campus to beg a bed from a
friend. Sure, he would have found a bed somewhere , but we decided to take
him home in the car and beat the curfew. Off we go -and hit roadblocks with
tall uniformed men with automatic guns.
Believe me - the next part is true. The soldiers had not heard about the new
curfew time. So we had a hard time. My partner's smart communication skills
stood her in good stead. We got through - got our friend home and beat the
curfew by five minutes. At ten we listened to the army commander take over
the country. At least, we said to ourselves - there will be no gangs on the
street tonight. So we shut up house rather more tightly than usual and went
to bed. I thought of my friend - he would have another story to writer - but
if you ask me if he is a journalist - I have no comment. I'm unsure about
how the military will view journalists now.
As the morning sun started to shine the new army boss released a new order
the curfew is being lifted for daylight hours. And as I write, I hear an
announcement on the early morning radio - that the ANZ banks wants its
employees to report for work. I am bewildered, and also bemused. Are we on
the way to Paradise Regained.? I breathe slowly - and think of the reality -
there are still over thirty hostages in Parliament. Mahendra Chaudry the
Prime Minister is reputed to have broken ribs and no medical care. And I
think of the myths that are still around. The Indo/Fijian population are
being mentioned by the BBC Worldservice as the richest in Fiji. True - but?
My own radio research for a program years ago, based on talking with
academics and a UNDP Fiji poverty report showed that the richest and poorest
group of people in Fiji were the Indo Fijians. At that time around a quarter
of the population - of both races, lived below the poverty line - another
quarter were near the poverty barrier. I don't care a damn about the rich
group, but I know the poorest people will now be the same, indigenous Fijian
and Indo/ Fijian.
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