New Zealand Listener

LANGE’S DANGEROUS GAMBLE

That David Lange moved in mysterious ways was known to everyone who worked with him. Strangely, though, the oddest and most dangerous mystery of his time as Prime Minister is little known. In 1987, he ordered armed troops to fly to Fiji and risk a possible confrontation with the Fiji army. Why has never been satisfactorily explained.

In May that year, the newly elected Government of Fiji was overthrown by the army, to everyone’s surprise including New Zealand’s. The assessment of our Intelligence Committee, which I chaired, had just concluded, cautiously, that the new Government was unlikely to last its term. Cabinet minister Richard Prebble, who had better Fijian sources than we did, sent me a note to say that it would go within a month. A few days later, we got a flash to say that armed soldiers were entering Parliament, and Lange announced the coup to the world.

The hijacker appeared in the cockpit at the end of refuelling, with four sticks of dynamite around his waist while smoking a cigarette.

While we were still reflecting on how

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