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Fiji Islands
2012

Cruising at 700 feet over the talcum powder beaches and azure sea of Fijis Mamanuca islands, everything looks perfect.

Actually, Fiji has been under military rule since 2006, when Commodore Josaia Voreqe Frank Bainimarama staged a coup against Prime Minister Laisenia Qarases fumblingly nationalistic but democratically elected government. It was the fourth coup since Fiji gained independence from Great Britain in 1970 but not nearly the most violent.

In 2009, Mr. Bainimarama has abrogated the constitution and then declared a state of martial law that lasted until January. Australia and New Zealand have responded throughout with a paternalistic chiding that enrages the government and is one reason relations are sour to this day. The same year, Britain suspended Fiji from the Commonwealth, a largely symbolic move that nonetheless cemented a pariah status anathema to any tourism driven economy.

For now, with Fiji in a holding pattern before the 2014 elections, the arguments over its future remain academic. Sitting behind a large wooden desk in his offices, Mr. Bainimarama, in most un-dictator-like pink shirtsleeves, is the spitting image of reform.

Extract of the text by Matt Siegel

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