New Zealand's response to the aircraft hijack incident during the coup d'état in Fiji : a study of civil-military relations in crisis : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in History at Massey University
On 19 May 1987 an Air New Zealand Boeing 727 passenger aircraft was hijacked on the ground at Nadi en route to Tokyo. The dynamite-carrying hijacker was a disaffected member of the Indo-Fijian community reacting to the overthrow of the recently elected Government in Fiji. The incident occurred at a time of uncertainty five days after the first military coup when the democratically elected Government of Timoci Bavadra was overthrown at gun-point by elements of the Royal Fiji Military Forces (RFMF). The New Zealand Government, in working out its response to protect New Zealand's interests in the aircraft, its passengers and the crew, was forced to consider more than just the difficult circumstances of the hijacking itself. The Government had to consider the potentially dangerous and tense political environment in which the events were taking place. The hijacking triggered a series of political and military responses, which exacerbated the tensions between the Government and its defence advisers. The events of that day threw into relief the constitutional issues involved in the deployment of forces to foreign countries in emergency situations. This study of the Government's response to the hijack incident, and the public debate that followed, is the first in-depth analysis of the incident. Until now any extensive comment has been by journalists in the media, although references have been made to the incident in academic articles in the context of discussions about defence or foreign policy. Most of the coverage in the media has focused on the personalities of the two key players in the incident – the then Prime Minister, the Rt Hon David Lange, and Air Marshal David Crooks, who was at that time Chief of Defence Staff. Between them they seem to have provided most of the material for the media articles in defence of their own positions or responding to the others' claims.