In December 2006 Commodore Bainimarama, head of the Fijian armed forces overthrew the lawfully elected government. The stated reason for the revolt was that the government proposed to transfer prime coastal land to indigenous Fijians and out of the hands of ethnic Indians who had been imported by the British.
The US, France and Australia all protested against the revolt against a lawfully elected government but did nothing to prevent it. Or did they do nothing?
Later in 2006, the new government ( the Revolt was successful) accused the Australian and French of planning an invasion of Fiji to overthrow the new government. Before the revolt, Australian federal police had several members seconded to the Fijian police and had played a key role in developing a tactical response group whose prime purpose was to provide a civilian response to the military.
Australian SAS were accused of importing large quantities of goods into Fiji and at almost the same time as the revolt, there was a disaster when a Blackhawk helicopter crashed when trying to land on an Australian warship which may have been in Fijian waters. Despite this, a large number of Australian nationals and Fijian politicians considered to be at risk were extracted from Fiji.
At the same as the revolt, members of the tactical response squad were diverted into a major drugs bust at the request of the French government as many of the drugs were finding their way to France via New Caledonia
It is September 2006
On 25th Fabienne asked Robert to join her and two friends on holiday in Fiji. She told him she had access to a unit on a remote island. Fabienne’s friend’s mother apparently owned the unit and the friend and her boyfriend would be accompanying Fabienne.
Robert applied for leave and found himself summoned to his controller’s office where he was told that his visit to Figi was very convenient. The SAS wanted someone totally independent to set up a safe house for a number of Australian members of the Fijian Police force and perhaps for some of their own, who might be at risk.
He explained that the Fijian army might be planning a coup. It was all about an attempt by the current Fijian government to transfer prime coastal land to indigenous Fijians and away from the influential people of Indian descent who were initially brought to Fiji by the British government He told Robert that it all came to a head on the…25th October when Major Neumi Leweni called the governments action “a threat to the nation”.
The controller continued to explain that Australian citizens were performing duties serving the present government. In particular, Andrew Hughes was a member of the Australian Federal Police serving on secondment as the Fijian Police commissioner. he had established a Tactical Response Force, intended to resist any attemptat a military take over and he was preparing a case of sedition against the senior officer of the military, Commodore Frank Bainimarama. Hughes was prepared to arrest Bainimarama but had been held at bay by Bainimarama’s was protected by a substantial bodyguard.
The controller then asked where Robert intended to holiday and Robert answered Matamanoa. The controller clearly had no idea of the location of Matanmanoa so Robert found the island on google earth. The controller expresses the opinion that the location of the island was almost perfect…about as far from Suva as you can get.
The controller made a series of decisions in rapid succession.
So you will go ahead with this holiday with my blessing. When the word is given our people will move themselves to Matanmanoa, where they will shelter until the crisis is over. Alternatively, we will remove them from Matamanoa at a time of our choosing.
Fabienne will become a French film star who wants privacy.
Get her to hire a helicopter and a large blue water boat. It is not incompatible with what a film star might do. If she does it will fragment the expenditure… make it less visible. However, there is significant expense involved in this. Give me Fabienne’s details again and the names of her friends. I will have to run the normal checks.
Assuming everything is ok.
Forget the single unit. We will get Harry Miller or Micheal Gudinski to book out the whole island from November to February in the name of this famous French film star.
Oh, just one more thing… I understand you have secure communication skills.
Robert replied that his skills were not totally up to date but adequate.
Good, someone will ring you later in the week. Don’t talk on the phone but go and see him or her and let them know what you will need to set up a military class secure link from Matamanoa.
Robert objected, indicating that if he was asking Fabienne to hire expensive equipment and he was personally going to be installing communications equipment he would have to tell Fabienne what he was doing. Robert was told it was not a problem. His controller pointed out that Fabienne had discovered his mission at Martha cove and she had shown herself to be discrete, very discrete.
Robert groaned, complaining that the controller had just hijacked his holiday!
The controller showed no sympathy pointing out that in fact, he had just given Robert a much longer holiday. There was an excellent chance that it would all blow over. He wished Robert good luck. and expressed a hope that Robert might enjoy himself.
Robert arrived in Figi on 2nd November. He met Fabienne at Port Denarau and they waited in a nearby resort for her friends Gaétan and Gabrielle to arrive
On the way to Matamanoa the helicopter pilot performed a tour of the nearby islands and made specific mention of Monuriki as the island where the film Castaway was made… he expressed the opinion that somewhere on the island luxurious accommodation had been built for the cast and crew but the accommodation had since been abandoned.
Robert discovered that Fabienne’s friends were not just her friends but her lovers. After leaving Robert she had not wanted to live alone and had moved in with them. Such arrangements can be unsuccessful but in this case, familiarity had eventually led to intimacy.
She recommitted herself to Robert but pleaded with him to allow the previous arrangement to continue. Robert was initially reluctant, perhaps even shocked, but continued pressure from both girls lead him to relent.
There were still staff on the island. Fabienne decided that if she was pretending to be a film star she should convince the staff that she is who she is supposed to be. They should make a film. She plotted a very sexy script involving a girl’s attempts to introduce some excitement into her straight-laced friend’s love life. Robert was cast as the straight-laced husband of the straight-laced friend.
Robert found it hard to focus on his security task when in the middle of an emotional turmoil.
On 14 November, a satellite dish was delivered which apparently was brought in by the Australian SAS bypassing customs.
Two days later on 16 November, after he has set up his secure terminal the first message lifted the operation to high alert.
Bainimarama had given the government three weeks to resign. The deadline was 1st December
Robert then told all three of his companions what his task really was. Pointing out that despite the background tension, they were still on holiday and that all they had to do was wait.
At Fabienne’s suggestion, all four of them boarded a tourist yacht making a tour of the surrounding islands. Robert consoles himself that this is a very low profile way to explore and evaluate the nearby waters and islands and raised no objections. They were of course on pretending to be on holiday.
A guide took them on a brief tour of Monuriki. The story about the film castaway and the luxury accommodation which was built on the island for cast and crew was repeated. A storm built and the boat ran for cover. The boat’s engine failed, and waves were coming over the bow. The situation looked desperate.
Fabienne saved the situation by taking over control of the boat. She proved she was an expert sailor.
Two days later on 29th November three policemen arrived and accused Fabienne of mutiny.
She claimed diplomatic immunity and asked the policeman to phone the police commissioner Andrew Hughes, the French Ambassador Jean-François Bouffandeau and Moses Driver the deputy police commissioner and commander of the police tactical response group.
It turned out that Andrew Hughes was in New Zealand attempting the arrest of Bainimarama.
However, both the Ambassador and Superintendent Driver ask to see her… In Suva
Fabienne shrugged her shoulders and told Robert it was her turn to own up. She told him that she was in Figi to destroy a hub for a Pacific drug operation which affected the whole of French Polynesia. It was, she explained, a French initiative but her role was simply to support Andrew Hughes and his Tactical Response Group.
However, she told Robert that everything had changed. That because she had contact with the French Navy the ambassador wanted her to assist in the evacuation of people who were at risk. She told Robert that suddenly her mission coincided with his.
Robert gazed into her eyes. He asked her what her role and responsibility actually was.
I am a commander in the DGES.
She asked for permission to contact his controller explaining that she wanted to take control of the safe house and indeed the whole operation.
The reply was almost instant and she informed Robert that she was now authorised to take command.
After a subsequent conversation with his controller, Robert accepted that Fabienne’s rank was superior to his own. He must accept whatever orders she gave him.
Fabienne told Robert that their paths must divide; that he must remain on Matannoa as it was his duty to prepare the safe house to receive visitors. Gabrielle will also stay. There are things she must do. I myself will take the helicopter to Suva. Gaétan will take the boat we have hired to Suva and pick up a dozen of the Police Tactical Response force.
On 30 November Black Hawk Helicopter with SAS on board crashes whilst landing on HMAS Kanimbla, just south of Suva.
3rd December Annual Rugby Game between the army and police delays the deadline and gives Fabienne just enough time to reach Suva.
Gabrielle wanted to revisit Monuriki. Robert again disagreed. He told her that if there was a billion dollars worth of drugs it would be well guarded. However, he pulled from his bag a monocular thermal imaging device. He hired a yacht locally and visited Monokini. staying close to the ground he was able to detect the presence of surveillance equipment He withdrew rapidly concluding that there certainly was something valuable on the island. When he returns to **** is able to pinpoint the probable location.
Robert wondered whether the coup was because the military was involved in the drug running operation.
6th december. Now in Suva Fabienne finds herself in the middle of the revolt.
On the 4th December, the forces of Commodore Bainimarama had surrounded the headquarters of the tactical response force and confiscated all their weapons and communications equipment. Bainimarama had repeated his earlier calls called for the prime minister to resign.
As they approach Suva, Fabienne talked to the military attache to the French ambassador. Following his instructions, the helicopter dropped her in the grounds of the meeting place of the great council of chiefs.
Ten members of the Tactical Response Force, loyal to the existing government, who had avoided the military are waiting for her and as a group they watched as the military surround the police facilities. They retreat to Queen Elizabeth Drive and climb into three embassy staff cars which have been sent to pick them up. They are only just in time.
At the request of the French ambassador the helicopter the rescues the Prime Minister from a meeting where he has been surrounded and returns him to a safe location in Suva
Fabienne reaches the Royal Suva Yacht club just over half a mile away and finds that in a private room Moses Driver has assembled all the civil servants who believe their lives are threatened. Over thirty people. Seven of them are Australian Citizens.
She realised that it is too great a number for the boat Gatien is bringing to Suva and persuaded Moses to hire more boats. He agrees to do so and quickly discovers four people who own boats who want to get out of Suva until the conflict is resolved.
After agonising wait during which it seemed quite possible that the military would occupy the Yacht club Gaétan arrives. Moses Driver opted to stay behind to do his best to protect his men.
Under cover of darkness, the five boats drifted out of the harbour on the tide.
They then moved off at full throttle heading back to Matamanoa. After some experimentation, they fell into a formation at a speed which they could all achieve. Suddenly they found themselves in full moonlight which highlighted the wake of the boats, It was a wonderful sight but potentially dangerous as they could be seen from miles away.
Fabienne confronted Robert, hands on her hips. She pointed out that the evacuation was a shambles, and asked how in the original plan were these people supposed to get to Matamanoa?
Robert told Fabienne about the Blackhawk crash which he believed had disabled the operation telling her that the Kanimbla had lost one man and there were several others injured. HMAS Kanimbla had now withdrawn to Noumea to get the injured to hospital and conduct an enquiry into the crash.
Robert contacted his controller and was given two pieces of information. That the Kanimbla would not be back on station until the first week in January. Secondly that there were other Australias who were fleeing to avoid capture by the military and they were assembling at Port Denarou.
Fabienne was furious. For Fabienne, this was the final straw. She told Robert this was no longer his operation but her operation. She told him that he must do whatever was necessary to rescue the people from port Denarau but in the meantime, she would implement her own plan.
Robert protested that nothing had changed that it had always been the plan to provide a safe house.
Fabienne responded explosively that it was not good enough, that it was only a matter of time before they we found. That she had no intention of waiting until the new year. That if she had her way they would all have Christmas in Noumea.
Fabienne took control of the communications system and was soon talking to the Captain of the French surveillance frigate Vendémiaire.
It was clear from the tone of the conversation that the captain of the Vendémiaire was acquainted with Fabienne. He asked did she want to be picked up.
Fabienne told him she wanted a little bit more than that, She told him that her team had pinpointed the location of a major drugs warehouse and were ready to take it out. She told him that the action had been approved by the Fijian police commissioner and would be initiated by Fijian Special Response Group. She told the captain about the revolt and told him that at that point in time, there was no legal government in Fiji and that consequently, he could bring the Vendémiaire into the two hundred mile limit. She told him that they would not be subject to criticism. that the task was to must remove the drugs and about 40 people back to the Vendémiaire. Your men in the zodiacs must be prepared for combat, but I believe the Fijian members of the Special Response Group would be able to eliminate opposition before you men arrive. They agreed that the captain would put six Zodiacs in the water supported by an armed helicopter.
Very good and you will, of course, take command?
Robert shook his head.. Obviously, she was more than a commander of the DGES she was a commander in the action group of the DGES. She could call in the army, air force and navy to support her when required.
Another thought crossed his mind. She was so senior that at the time of their reunion he must have been approved as a suitable partner for such a senior officer. Oh! and the unusual relationship with Gabrielle and Gaétan would also have been identified and approved. Only in France!