4. A very unusual hijacking
Fiji`s first coup took place on May 14 1987. I was barely 500 yards from Parliament when gunmen led by then-Lt.Col Sitiveni Rabuka took control. I listened to a breathless almost live report of this on FM96, the station where I worked as a newsreader, and my first instinct was to get down there. (I couldn`t as I was having an in-grown toenail removed at the time.) Five days later a disgruntled employee at Nadi International Airport forced his way into the cockpit of Air New Zealand flight TE24, a fully fuelled Boeing 747, and threatened to blow himself up. At the time, news reporting was tightly censored and to enforce that there were armed soldiers pointing their guns at us while we read the news on air. By some sleight of hand I was able to break the hijacking story on air before the soldiers realised. About six hours after taking control of the plane, the hijacker was in the cockpit repeating his demands to be flown to Libya when the plane`s flight engineer knocked him out with a blow to his head from a bottle of whiskey he had in his flight bag.
In a typically Fijian end to the story, the hijacker - whose name was Amjad Ali - was granted bail (who gives bail to hijackers?) and in time would become a member of Parliament and eventually the country`s minister for tourism and civil aviation.
Random Facts
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