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Monday 19 Feb 2018 | 05:18 | SYDNEY
Monday 19 Feb 2018 | 05:18 | SYDNEY

The dictator's sense of humour



1 May 2009 17:06

One of the problems with being a military dictator is becoming too used to people constantly saluting and always laughing at your jokes. As an exhibit for this argument, please consider the image of Frank Bainimarama giving the Nazi salute and doing the goosestep.

The image is so funny yet so jarring. It brings to mind the old debating rule: the first person to use a Nazi analogy automatically loses the argument. Equally, the first person to give the salute and declaim 'Heil Hitler!' loses the joke. Here’s the description offered by Graham Davis as he walks with Bainimarama into the mess at military headquarters in the hills above Suva.

As we approach the mess, a uniformed non-commissioned officer springs to attention and salutes. The commander is in mufti: tailored Fijian sulu (a wrap skirt) topped with a green floral shirt. To my astonishment, he raises his right hand in a Nazi salute. "Heil Hitler!" he exclaims. "Isn't that what dictators are supposed to do?" His entourage explodes in mirth…. Later, he repeats the joke with some goosesteps thrown in, skirt akimbo, brown legs flashing.

As Davis reports, Bainimarama was being ironic, mocking his image as a dictator.

Unfortunately, there’s quite a few things to be mocked in Fiji today. Tomorrow, to mark the Commodore’s birthday, ‘his troops will march to his home bearing cake and champagne, and the army band will play.’ Who in the Pacific imagines that Bainimarama is going to find it easy to let go of all this obeisance?

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