A top New Zealand diplomat who died last year has left behind a sharply undiplomatic book revealing how Fiji’s military strongman personally threatened “to get him” and describes the regime as one characterised by intimidation and thuggery.
Michael Green in 2009 became the first New Zealand diplomat to be declared persona non grata when coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama ordered him out as high commissioner.
Pictured: Late Michael Green former NZ High Commissioner to Fiji
The book titled ‘Persona Non Grata: Breaking the Bond – New Zealand and Fiji 2004-2007′, will be launched on June 27 at the Victoria University in New Zealand.
Green, who died last year of cancer, writes of the secret advice he was giving Wellington during the 2006 democracy ending military coup.
His tough worded criticism of Bainimarama’s “volatile personality” is likely to anger Suva again.
Fiji is “characterised by intimidation and thuggery, arbitrary and vindictive dismissals, abandonment of principles and personal betrayals, official misinformation and media censorship, and the deliberate perversion of state institutions.”
Green, watching the conspiring leading to Fiji’s fourth coup, lived next door to Bainimarama.
As the crisis deepened, they quietly had New Zealand Police posted to Suva to prepare for “the possibility that an evacuation of citizens.”
When police put a radio aerial on the roof of the residence, Bainimarama complained they were spying on him.
By November 2006 Green heard from credible sources that the Fiji Police were planning to arrest Bainimarama for sedition and disobeying lawful orders. Bainimarama instead made a series of demands and threatened a coup.He went to New Zealand on a private visit for the first communion of a grand child but “got it into his head” that New Zealand would arrest him.
“He phoned (Defence Attache) Al MacKinnon to him that that, if he should be arrested, his ‘boys’ would be sent over the fence into the Residence to ‘get me’.”The threats were taken seriously and mission families were sent home.
Then Foreign Minister Winston Peters told Bainimarama would not be arrested in Wellington.
Green said the commander was never interested in negotiations, and pocketed every concession with no reciprocity.
After the coup took place, New Zealand imposed a ban on all regime officials visiting. Bainimarama rang up a high commission official and said “tell your high commissioner to watch out for retaliation.”
Green cites a “Muslim Coup” aspect of 2006 in which Nazhat Shameem, a high court judge, and her sister Shaista of the Fiji Human Rights Commission, advised Bainimarama’s secretive military council.
Shaista is now a Grey Lynn lawyer. Another Muslim lawyer Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was also involved.
“In due course all three were to be beneficiaries of the coup.”
In June 2007 Green made a speech about democracy and the coup and received a call saying Bainimarama did not like it.
Then the Junior All Blacks arrived in Suva to play Fiji. Green was invited to sit in President Josefa Iloilo’s tent to watch. It turned out he had a better seat than that given to Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum who were directly behind some New Zealand families
“One of the children waved a New Zealand flag throughout the game, while another one shook a big, black rubbery artificial finger every time New Zealand scored.”
His expulsion order came soon after: “If my role at the rugby was not the reason for my expulsion, I am sure that it was the precipitant. “
Green said Bainimarama has a long record of getting rid of people who challenged him, stood up to him, or crossed him – or were perceived by him to have done so.
He is not interested in advice or assistance unless it is to sustain him in power or to implement his agenda in its entirety.
“He is uncomfortable with the clash of ideas, negotiation and compromise, all critical elements of effectively functioning democracies.”
Green said he doubted Bainimarama would ever deliver on his promises of better governance and genuine democracy.
Green said it was plain the Fiji military standards were slipping and its soldiers were old and unfit.Bainimarama had always resisted change or improvement and so the army had a much higher average age than others.
Territorials called up during the coup became seriously unwell: “Up to a dozen of them were said to have died.”