Trouble in Paradise

The recent coup in Fiji shows the potentially big impact the small islands of the South Pacific can have worldwide.
From the July 2000 Trumpet Print Edition

Christchurch, New Zealand

The Falklands War flashed into action through somebody raising a flag. World War i was triggered by an assassin’s bullet. World War ii and the Gulf War were started by despots invading relatively defenseless neighbors. The aggressors all had causes they believed were justifiable, but their actions had disastrous results.

When enough racial, ethnic, political or religious heat is generated, it only takes someone to light the fuse and the world map can change its colors and boundaries overnight. People’s lives can change instantly—and for most it usually means for the worse.

Never before has this planet been so unstable. The Trumpet has long focused on the events in Britain, the United States, Europe and the Middle East and will continue to do so, because of their enormous significance in Bible prophecy. But Southeast Asia is also featured in Bible prophecy. We need to know what is really happening behind the news in this region, because, in the short term, greater trouble lies ahead.

The once-standing dominos of the South Pacific are falling one by one, with worldwide repercussions. The pictures of white sands, blue coral reefs and renowned tourist resorts are rapidly changing into war zones. In recent months world news has recorded upheaval in Indonesia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Fiji—and the instability continues to spread. Which Pacific domino will fall next?

Chaos in Fiji

Fiji is approximately three hours’ flying time from both Australia and New Zealand and consists of 300 islands covering 7,085 sq. miles (18,350 sq. km). The population, over 772,000, comprises 51 percent indigenous Fijian and 44 percent ethnic Indian. The army consists of 3,700 men, mainly Fijians. Main industries are sugar, tourism, garment manufacture, gold, copra, timber and fish. The country’s average wage is approximately us$25-40 per week, with a gdp per capita of $1903. Following two coups in 1987, the economy has only just been recovering, and now, with a bumper sugar-cane crop ready to harvest, Fiji has anticipated a boost in wealth. But the sugar may well stay on the ground unless Fiji’s problems are quickly and appropriately solved.

On May 19, nine terrorists toting ak47s and Uzi machine guns stormed the Fiji parliament building in Suva. They hijacked the Fiji government, including the prime minister, deputy prime minister and cabinet members—over 30 hostages, including the president’s daughter. Relatively unknown terrorist leader George Speight (locally born as Ilikini Naitini), who was due to appear in court on extortion charges, demanded the resignations of the whole government, including Prime Minister Chaudry (an Indian) and President Ratu (chief) Sir Kamisese Mara. Speight didn’t stop there: He demanded the revocation of the Fiji Constitution.

When news of the terrorist attack broke on Fiji radio, indigenous Fijians who were previously law-abiding citizens went on a rampage against anything Indian. Here is an example of how the human mind can switch from one of order to lawlessness, and how an orderly capital can be turned to devastation.

The New Zealand Herald of May 26 quoted a 26-year-old Fijian named Jone: “We heard on the radio that the parliament was taken over—that’s when we knew it had started. We ran outside and went straight to Tappoo’s [a duty-free store]. We talked about only doing Indian shops, not Fijian, because the Indians have been trying to take our land from us.

“Two guys tried to rob a Jap fella and some cops stepped in. Someone whacked the cop and he fell down and from then on it all started—people were yelling, ‘Break the windows, break the windows—Tappoo’s, Tappoo’s.’ Then everyone was smashing windows and looting…. The police tried to stop it, but there was nothing they could do. They just said, ‘Be careful, don’t cut yourself on the glass. Take what you want and move on….’ People were taking their stuff home with them in buses or Indian cars they took. Some people made three or four trips back into town.”

Jone said he had no criminal convictions and had never looted before. Asked why he taken part, he said, “It was just for fun.” The police officers themselves were seizing loot and taking it home, he said.

Even uniformed school children joined in the violence. Indian shops and business places were burned to the ground. The Goodman, Fielder Wattie chicken factory, the largest in Fiji, was also torched and lay in smoldering ashes. New Zealand vegetables valued at more us$12,000 lay rotting on the wharves and were later dumped at sea. The supermarkets, which were mainly Indian-owned, were looted, causing even greater food shortages and escalating prices.

Because of unsympathetic press, Speight supporters burst their way in and ransacked FijiTV. One of the terrorists murdered an unarmed policeman by shooting him in the back while he manned the doors.

Speight then demanded amnesty from prosecution for all offenders, including himself. Treason still carries the death penalty in Fiji. The Great Council of Chiefs capitulated and agreed to Speight’s demands in return for the eventual safety of the hostages. Several days later the military stepped in and, again, Speight was assured amnesty. Violence in the towns inevitably spread to rural areas, where Indians have had to hide in fear of rape and murder while their properties have been ransacked.

Implications

Fiji faces financial, trade and cultural penalties from Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Europe unless the hijacking of the government is resolved by the restoration of democracy. British Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon, who endeavored to negotiate with Speight, warned of Fiji’s likely expulsion from the Commonwealth again. If this occurs it will likely be permanent, being the second time (see sidebar below). Referring to Speight’s terrorist action, Mr. McKinnon also said, “He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword,” a quote from Matthew 26:52.

Fiji’s chaos is unlikely to be resolved easily. The wealth is on the west side of Viti Levu, where Nadi International Airport is located. The west also has a seaport at Lautoka. On the east side, Suva has a harbor and a small international airport at Nausori. The Fijian chiefs in the west who live harmoniously with the Indians are considering forming a separate government.

Where is all this leading? The Brisbane Courier Mail stated on May 27, “In just seven days, Fiji’s political and economic structure has been blown apart and its future as a functioning state placed in serious peril by a common terrorist.”

Dr. Satish Chand, a Pacific economist specializing in Fiji and visiting fellow at the Australian National University, is among others who see little hope of the country recovering in the foreseeable future. “It is hard to judge how far this has put Fiji back, but you can measure it in decades,” he said.

Another Domino

Which will be the next domino to fall? Following Fiji’s crisis, an almost copycat terrorist act occurred in the Solomon Islands on June 3 when the prime minister was taken hostage. Diplomacy from the barrel of a gun is catching on. Could this action rub off on Australia or New Zealand?

During George Speight’s negotiations with the Great Council of Chiefs and the military, at least one notable New Zealand Maori activist flew to Suva while most New Zealanders were racing to get out of the country. Sporting his moko (facial tattoo), he enjoyed the photographic publicity with Speight in support of “indigenous people’s rights.” Another Maori activist, a lawyer, said that if the New Zealand population was 50 percent Maori, a coup would have happened years ago. While these people are of the extreme, where there is smoke, there is fire.

Recently, Sydney Harbor Bridge was opened for one of Australia’s biggest rallies. Up to a quarter of a million people marched to apologize for past wrongs against the Aborigines (indigenous Australians). Many carried Aboriginal flags and wore “sorry” badges, while a signwriting aircraft wrote sorry in the sky above them. Could this be the thin edge of the wedge for Australia too?

The dominos in the South Pacific are not shaking just by chance. God Almighty warns that there is a powerful evil force at work to weaken the nations: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!” (Isa. 14:12).

When nations become weak, they invite intruders. Remember the importance of the Pacific islands in World War ii—Midway, Guam, Okinawa, New Guinea, the Solomons, Fiji, Hawaii, just to name a few. The Republic of Fiji is of great strategic significance, with two seaports and two international airports.

Stratfor analysts took this view of the South Pacific situation: “This region has, of late, been a bit of a strategic backwater. But it was not always. During the U.S.-Japanese competition for preeminence in the Pacific from the 1920s until 1945, these islands made up the centerpiece of a great strategic struggle. American power projection into the Western Pacific toward China and Japan, Australia and the Philippines depended on the ability of the U.S. fleet to navigate past these islands. Japanese airfields denied the U.S. fleet passage during World War ii. Brutal fighting from Guadalcanal to Tinian revolved around the use of these islands as unsinkable, if immobile aircraft carriers….

“For about 50 years, no one has had any interest in increasing their influence in this region. This may not continue to be the case for much longer. China’s need to counter American power—combined with Beijing’s limited naval capability—makes a Pacific island strategy as natural to them as it was to the Japanese decades ago.

“There is, however, ample time for the United States, Australia and New Zealand, acting in concert, [for] developing a blocking strategy that is both effective and cheap. The governments in Australia and New Zealand, however, are relatively impervious to strategic thinking these days, tending to look at events piecemeal instead of eyeing long-term threats. And right now U.S. strategy is on autopilot.

“A potentially important chapter is opening in the Pacific. It will be interesting to see if Beijing takes advantage of it and whether anyone will care enough about this ignored region to devise a counter-strategy. Effective counter-strategy in the eyes of the USA would be to allow Japan to move in and fill the vacuum” (giu, June 12)

Australians and New Zealanders are mainly of British descent and part of the “company of nations” or “commonwealth” of nations that God prophesied to emerge through Jacob’s lineage (write for a free copy of The United States and Britain in Prophecy for proof). Isaiah 49:12 refers to the land of Sinim, which is translated “Australis” in the Vulgate. As our people have rejected God, He is breaking the pride of our power (Lev. 26:19) and unless we repent, our peoples will go into a time of severe punishment such as the world has never seen before.

The instability of the South Pacific is part of the softening-up process for the greatest upheaval in man’s history. The Bible refers to this period as the Great Tribulation and the Day of the Lord.