Perhaps the most surprising development out of Voreqe Bainimarama's attempt at a golf-course summit was that the Australian media got itself all steamed up about it.
They thought it mattered, especially as they were not there.
Natadola was evidence, the journalists thundered, that Fiji was splitting the region and that Australia had suffered devastating diplomatic embarrassment.
Egg, it was said, had been thrown across the face of Australia.
Now that it is all over, and we've all had a beer or two, and perhaps a cup of tea and a bit of a lie down, the truth will slowly emerge.
The only tragedy was that through it all, a glorious piece of flimflam went completely unnoticed.
It's the "Pacific Bridge to Noble Wealth" project which, as hilarious as the name implies, has California confidence-trickery written all over it. Yet again, another Pacific state has fallen for the carpet-baggers, just like poor Tonga did with the court jester and the millions.
Read more about Hana Ayala and patter on the Pacific here.
Natadola attendance was spotty. President Anote Tong of Kiribati and Tuvalu Prime Minister Apisai Ielemia were there. They were required too for they are, these days, little more than Fiji colonies. There is no other way to Tuvalu except through Fiji. Bainimarama can throw a hissy-fit at Australia and only damage his own big foot; but it he capable to really hurting Tarawa and Funafuti.
Fiji did to Tuvalu and Kiribati, that which it claims Australia does to it. Even fleas have little fleas.
PNG's Michael Somare, fresh from washing the blood off him after a Parliamentary brawl (see story here) came for the golf.
Solomons Prime Minister Derek Sikua was there, but he was going to be in Fiji anyway.
Intriguing thought though; in the Solomons he is regarded as an Australian poodle and runs the risk of losing next month's elections. Still, the friend of my enemy is my friend, says Bainimarama, or is it the friend of the fiend is my enemy, or are all my friends enemies? The others there were various diplomatic flunkies despatched by leaders who found themselves with pressing other business.
They were greeted with yet another incomprehensible speech, a developing speciality for Bainimarama. He has obviously changed speech-writers and who ever is doing it now (perhaps the Australian spy in the Ministry of Information) cannot write, or she is sending coded messages.
It contained the usual Business 101 cliches: "paradigm shift", "vision" and "level playing field". Why, if you are having a paradigm visionary shift across the field, do you use the same old words?
One sentence contained 119 words and no commas. Is the Australian Spy trying to kill him with exhaustion?
His audience was told that 64 percent of the "Fijian people" (does that include Indians?) supported the "people's charter". What? Did he have an election we did not notice?
Ah; no Pacific gathering can be complete without a communique, written up long before any leader bothers to sit down and talk about it. The Natadola Communique would have been the one foisted on the Melanesian Brotherhood who clearly took fright and would not sign.
Leaders thanked Fiji for "their warm hospitality" and acknowledged the "the high level of representation and attendance of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS)" there. They can have their fantasy, but the arrival of a new acronym is awful.
The leaders agreed that Bainimarama was doing well in making Fiji a "modern nation" and that it would hold "true democratic elections". That, of course, is code-speak for elections at the whim of Bainimarama.
Item six had leaders saying that "important lessons could be learnt" from Fiji's experience. Tactfully this was not spelt out; the number on lesson I know that Kiribati came away with was this: do not have a military, and do not have military coups.
They "recognised the need for Fiji's continuous engagement with the region".
That means its not a good idea to toss ambassadors out after you have had a fruitless day begging money from the Arabs and the IMF, right Frank?
At item eight they talked about joint fishing with Kiribati. That is an old chestnut; read Pacific Forum communiques back to the beginning of time itself and they talk about Kiribati fishing - with the Soviets, the Russians, the Chinese, the Spanish ... and now the Fijians.
They talked about jobs for unemployed Pacific Islanders in PNG : I imagine the thought of hundreds of Fijians taking jobs in PNG will not go down well with the thousands of unemployed Papua New Guineans. And after four coups and a brain drain, isn't the idea for Fiji to keep some people, just for a change?
The leaders complained about how the taxpayers of other countries were being slow at giving them money they wanted by way of aid.
Then the communique dribbles away into the usual stuff with the same words: "reaffirmed", "committed", "agreed" and "noted".
In fact, there is not a single, sustainable idea or call to action in any of it.
The entire event was simply a grandstand for Bainimarama.
That is why it will fade away; guaranteed.
Commodore Bainimarama (the rank is to remind us all that he is still head soldier, in case some people who like him photographed in civilian clothing have forgotten) has taken on curious new self-awarded honours. His speech to the leaders described his honours as CF (Mil) - he gave himself the Order of Fiji, companion last year. The OStJ is the Order of St John, given out by the ambulance people to Commonwealth heads of government. Recipients promise to support St John. Most leaders do not use it in the fashion Bainimarama does. MSD is the military's Meritorious Service Decoration, a suitably low ranking thing he awarded in recognition of the fine running and tumbling he demonstrated as his own solders shot at him. As of the two lower case initials, jssc and psc, are down right silly. No, he does not write for the Journal of Solid-State Circuits, the first one refers to the - wait- for-it-from-the-man-who-attacks-Australian-diplomats - means the Australian Joint Services Staff College. He attended a six week course there! Records show he failed the course; he had to he diplomatically given a pass mark so as not to embarrass Fiji. Wonder if JSSC is now inclined to release the paperwork to public view. Frank failed that one, but uses it all the same. Psc shows he is a member of the Fiji Public Service Commission.
To put all this into a title, surely is proof positive of the absolute narcissism of the man.
July 24, 2010