Commodore Frank Bainimarama says he was intoxicated when the Australian defense minister called to threaten him.
"We had a heavy grog session the night before, and I was still doped," he explained with a silly grin to a television interviewer. "He told me, 'Don't ever do anything that will pit my troops against yours.' I thought, I'm not the one who's doped" on a kava-root beverage. "It must be this guy."
Bainimarama, the self-appointed prime minister of
Four years ago, Commodore Bainimarama seized power in a military coup. No blood was shed, but he immediately earned the undying enmity of his largest neighbors, Australia and New Zealand. They imposed sanctions, as did the
But Bainimarama says they don't understand. He is interested in maintaining power only as long as it takes to enact important reforms. In fact, he promised to hold elections again in 2009. But then in April of that year,
"Everything was removed, right?" asked reporter
With all the foment that came from abolishing the government, the commodore's reform agenda was foundering. He wanted to end crime and racism, improve government efficiency and promote economic growth. So elections had to be postponed until 2014.
The economic part is not going so well.
Australia and New Zealand are taking every opportunity to rail at him. Just a few days ago, The Australian newspaper quoted an unnamed foreign-affairs official saying: "the people may have no choice but to stand up to Bainimarama and his thugs." The commodore was understandably offended, principally because "some of the foreign countries are turning a blind eye" to "the reforms that the government is carrying out," he complained.
Among them, on
Every newsroom now has a government censor. But the prime minister, in that
He moved forward with another reform earlier this month. Everyone in the nation now must register his phone number with the government. Justice Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum explained that some misguided citizens "have threatened the lives of government ministers in an attempt to deter ministers from the execution of their official duties," like warrentless arrests, property seizures, religious persecution and deportations.
Last year, Australia and New Zealand suspended
Of course, Bainimarama blamed Australia. He immediately expelled the Australian ambassador and announced that because of "constant interference" by Australia and New Zealand, "I'm all of a sudden thinking that we might not be ready, come 2014, for elections."
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(C) 2010 Joel Brinkley