One of the many perks of being a dictator is not having to be called one – at least at home, where the average autocrat wields tight control over the media. But what to do about that pesky international press corps, whose immunity from arbitrary prosecution and worse makes them less than cooperative in flogging the official narrative?
In the case of Fiji’s Commodore Josaia Voreqe “Frank” Bainimarama, who took control of his island paradise in a 2006 military coup, fashion has played more than a small part in reshaping his image from the rogue officer often portrayed in the regional media to the coup-culture-crushing prime minister touted in the glossy press releases put out by his Washington-based pr firm.
Long gone for Bainimarama is the drab combination of olive fatigues and red beret that may have struck fear into the hearts of his opponents but did little to burnish his reformist narrative. Instead, the stout ruler today opts for tailored grey suits that match his salt and pepper hair, often in tandem with the traditional skirts and leather sandals favoured by the easy-going Fijian male. During a recent interview in Suva, Bainimarama even sported a smart pink collared shirt – hardly a style that matches his fearful reputation.
Later this year, the New Zealand Navy acquires two fast 9.2m aluminium boats. Small beer, maybe, but they’re the first kit ordered under a radical restructure of the defence forces into the Joint Amphibious Taskforce – in which the country’s navy, army and air force will operate as one in combat by 2015. Partly, it’s financial – the country no longer has a combat air wing – but it makes sense to focus on water, given its isolation in the South Pacific. So the new boats are designed for anti-mine work and disaster relief, while still being able to fit into one of the Air Force’s C-130 Hercules for fast transport. With boats like these, who needs jets?
The idea that Australia’s economy basks in glorious isolation has been shot down by the news of a AU$5.5bn (€4.4bn) cut to military spending. Hence the Australia Defence Force is making friends, from the Netherlands to Pakistan. China is being courted too, with defence minister Stephen Smith (right) paying a recent visit.
A controversial cost-cutting tactic from the Army, meanwhile, sees troops recruited on the cheap from New Zealand. Soldiers get a golden handshake of AU$200,000 (€170,000) and fast-tracked citizenship. “This represents good value,” an ADF spokesman said. We assume all rugby debates are banned from the rifle range.
Australia was prepared for trouble during Papua New Guinea’s two-week-long elections in July. It sent 200 troops, four Black Hawk helicopters and two B350 King Air aircraft to the Melanesian country.
- Basic pay: €27,864
- Days of annual leave: 28
- Favourite food:
- Veal cordon bleu, fettucine marinara