Fiji sanctions have started
Fast moving events in Fiji has seen a military takeover and the declaration of martial law as The Guardian goes to press. The President of the country has been removed (temporarily, according to the military) and "shoot to kill" orders had been given to the military. The move is unconstitutional and the military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama said that "all the nation has been saddened by the extent to which the country has fallen during the last week. I have therefore, with much reluctance, assumed executive power". What is not clear yet is whether the military could free the hostages held by George Speight's gunmen without bloodshed and without giving in to Speight's ever escalating demands. The past week saw the complete disintegration of the existing power structure with the Council of Chiefs agreeing to Speight's demands to sack the Prime Minister, pardon the terrorists and change the existing Constitution. George Speight also demanded the removal of the President and that has also now taken place. Last week saw the escalation of violence in the streets of Suva — the one and only TV station was trashed, a policeman killed, shots were fired with two army men and a journalist wounded. What is not yet clear is the exact role of the army in this situation and its future plans. At the moment there is a general feeling that anything is better than what has been happening so far and if the military can resolve the hostage crisis, it would have justified the imposition of martial law and everything that follows from that. Sanctions Meanwhile the Australian government has worked out a list of sanctions against Fiji in response to the continuing detention of the elected Fiji government but has not imposed them yet, apart from cancelling the Fiji leg of the Olympic torch relay. The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has already taken action. The MUA protest bans kicked off on Monday, May 29, with waterside workers in Melbourne refusing to handle around 50 containers of general cargo bound for Suva. The containers are being isolated and held together with all other cargo arriving on the wharves marked for Fiji. "We have identified the shipping lines that handle the majority of Fijian cargo" said John Coombs, MUA National Secretary. "So long as the elected government is held hostage, the bans stay", said Mr Coombs. The MUA has also written to Brian McWilliams, International President of the US west coast waterfront union, the ILWU, seeking support for the ACTU solidarity initiative. "It would certainly send a message to the international community, for both the ILWU and the MUA to combine their resources on this important issue in Fiji", wrote Assistant National Secretary Mick O'Leary. "We are available to discuss what options may be opened to both organisations to achieve the maximum effect in support of democracy in Fiji", Mr O'Leary stressed. This is not the first time the MUA has instigated bans against Fijian cargo. In 1987 all Fijian cargo was blackbanned in protest against the Rabuka military coup which toppled the then democratically elected government of Prime Minister Dr Bavandra.