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Wednesday 21 Feb 2018 | 14:22 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 21 Feb 2018 | 14:22 | SYDNEY

Fiji: Attack of the blimps



16 July 2010 08:55

Putting the journalistic boot into the Australian Government is standard operating procedure in Canberra. The dangerous bit can be praising our leaders. That way lies the label of lick-spittle and lag.

To say something complimentary about Australian policy in the South Pacific is to add a further dimension to the lick-spittle critique. The cry becomes one of colonialism and paternalism, and my column on Australia outplaying Fiji provoked a squadron of critics to take flight in the best hot air traditions of Colonel Blimp.

The column evoked a reply of 'gadzooks' from a reader styling himself an Armchair Diplomat and announcing himself as 'His Excellency, Cecil Remington-Jones II'. Sarcasm is often more effective than abuse, and 'His Excellency' has brought forth one of the fruitiest bits of sustained derision I've suffered in a while. So, with an off-key trumpet blast, herewith the missive from 'Cecil':

Dear Mr Dobell,

Your interweb-log is a source of occasional diversion for an old man, such as me, but I am encouraged and made lively in perusing your most recent scrawling on the Commonwealth's activities in its region.

When the grim spectre of British Fijian terror hangs ominously across the Pacific, threatening to oppress and destroy, I am elated, sir, that heroic intellectuals such as yourself are willing to step forward and build the case for forcibly re-submerging Fiji beneath the stagnant waters from whence it emerged.

 The Government's unceasing efforts to undermine and isolate the undermined and isolated junta in Suva are laudable - but merely a precursor, in my view, to eventual absorption of British Fiji into the New Australasian Commonwealth of Empire. This shall be the REAL Pacific solution. I note from your column that this is also the view of our gallant and untainted news-paper-men, upon whom so much depends.

The point here is that uppity, flyspeck, future dominions of Australia, such as Fiji, East Timor, PNG, Solomon Islands, China, etc, must be shown who, in fact, is the regional 'supremo', as you put it so poetically. Let me describe the situation to you in this way: if the entire Oceanic Continent were Fiji, then Australia would be Bainimarama, clad in brass armor, sitting atop a mighty throne of skulls with a crown of gold-plated diamonds.

Some nations in our immediate vicinity know not how to respect their betters. Witness brazen East Timor! Its parliament has the gall to refuse our magnanimous leader's generous gift of a squalid detention camp! Thankfully, our political masters have enough sense to casually dismiss this unanimous vote of a sovereign neigbour's parliament. The parliament is, of course, a meaningless organ if it does not prostrate itself before our will.

The East Timorese shall have their gift and they shall like it very much and they shall demonstrate monumental gratitude. Or else we will do to them what we have done to those other wretched fools daring to resist Canberra's dictats. We will force them to de-shoe at our airports leading to great national humiliation and magnificent shame! We will doggedly seek extradition of their Attorney General on decade-old charges of which he has already been acquitted!

All this and more is within our power. Let us be intoxicated by it and carelessly throw it about. Writings such as yours are a promising beginning towards this end. I applaud you and your interweb-log, sir.  


Cecil Remington-Jones II

Armchair Diplomat

Ah, Cecil, what can I say? Australia has indeed had its blimpish moments in the South Pacific. But on this occasion, the proper target for mockery is in Suva, not Canberra. By actually listening to – and enlisting – the rest of the South Pacific, Australia has merely attempted to play the lousy hand dealt by Bainimarama.

No argument that Australia was forceful in telling the Melanesian Spearhead Group of the dangers of letting the Supremo hold his own version of a Forum summit built around the MSG. The diplomatic effort succeeded because the region saw no advantage in giving a win to Suva that would inflict real damage to the Pacific Islands Forum.

The case rests not just on ideas of regionalism, but the ideas the region now has about Fiji’s military ruler. One of Australia’s South Pacific sages said Bainimarama's 'big MSG miscalculation’ was to misunderstand how much he worries everybody: 'The truth is that the rest of the region doesn't like Fiji spoiling the Pacific brand for tourists, investors, and everyone else."

The Supremo has become used to issuing official edicts covering every aspect of Fiji life, but the South Pacific does not have to follow orders.

Photo by Flickr user psd, used under a Creative Commons license.

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