A Look at ‘Six Nights in May’

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The views ex­pressed in this ar­ti­cle are those of the au­thor and not of the Univer­sity of the South Pa­cific or the Bavadra – (the Fiji Labour Party and the Na­tional Fed­er­a­tion Party coali­tion gov­ern­ment. For the coup leader he claimed that he was pro­tect­ing an elected gov­ern­ment from the wrath of the indige­nous na­tion­al­ist iTaukei Move­ment, which demon­strated its griev­ance through or­gan­ised noisy demon­stra­tions in April 1987. Thurs­day, May 14, 1987 will be along re­mem­bered as the black­est day in Fiji’s his­tory. Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor Satendra Nan­dan, now 30 years later, writes his first book giv­ing us a per­sonal ac­count of what this heavy toll of the 1987 coup had taken on the lives of the vic­tims who were a di­rect tar­get.

Only a writer like Pro­fes­sor Nan­dan, through his lit­er­acy skill and emo­tional depth could have cap­tured the essence of the tragedy and ter­ror that be­fell our na­tion demis­ing democ­racy, dev­as­tat­ing the econ­omy and holis­ti­cally bring­ing the face of Fiji to a level of dam­age which no surgery would re­store its shat­tered im­age. It was a dam­age that was be­yond recog­ni­tion. Pro­fes­sor Nan­dan re­mem­bers the morn­ing of May 14th when a group of masked sol­ders en­tered Par­lia­ment and ab­ducted the Prime Min­is­ter, Dr Ti­moci Bavadra, his cab­i­net min­is­ters and back benches He was then the Min­is­ter for Health in the Bavadra Gov­ern­ment (a gov­ern­ment that was only a month old when it was hit by a mil­i­tary coup, a gov­ern­ment that was formed to de­feat the Al­liance Party which ruled Fiji from 1970 to 1987.).

With guns, cocked on their head, they were force­fully taken out of the par­lia­ment to board a truck and with hav­ing no knowl­edge of what was hap­pen­ing, will hap­pen and hav­ing no idea of was go­ing to hap­pen, es­pe­cially with them and the peo­ple of the na­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Nan­dan, this night­mare still haunts him and some of the gov­ern­ment min­is­ters who were locked for six days and six nights. There ab­duc­tors did ev­ery­thing to hu­mil­i­ate, trau­ma­tise and strip them of their dig­ni­ties. They were com­pletely cut off from their fam­i­lies and friends, locked up in a cell at the Queen El­iz­a­beth Bar­racks which was meant for crim­i­nals and drunken peo­ple.

This is the first book that has been pub­lished which tells the in­side story of how they were treated. Pro­fes­sor Nan­dan ac­counts ev­ery sin­gle piece of the mo­ment from the for­ma­tion of the al­liance be­tween the two par­ties NFP and FLP to the for­ma­tion and win of the coali­tion. This is the story of im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the coup in his ver­sion and it should be read in the con­text of time, place and feel­ings.

It’s a story of de­fence­less peo­ple los­ing their in­no­cence and trust.

This book is for ev­ery­one in­clud­ing the younger gen­er­a­tion, a bit­ter re­mem­brance of the his­tor­i­cal dark day’s af­ter­math – the cru­elty and the vi­o­lence the coun­try suf­fered, es­pe­cially the Indo-Fi­jian com­mu­nity and the be­gin­ning of the coup cul­ture.

As you read, the book un­folds the mys­ter­ies of all the per­pe­tra­tors and un­der whose in­struc­tion Si­tiveni Rabuka staged the two coups in 1987.

The book fi­nally fin­ishes of with Pro­fes­sor Nan­dan’s first meet­ing with Si­tiveni Rabuka af­ter 20 years. Pro­fes­sor Nan­dan nar­rates the full con­ver­sa­tion that was ex­changed be­tween them. The piece was pub­lished in the lo­cal news­pa­per which is also pub­lished in this book.

The book is avail­able from USP Book­cen­tre at $15.00.

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