Military Coup: Bainimarama Appoints Himself President Of Fiji
Compiled by Selwyn Manning
Fiji's army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama has appointed himself as Fiji's president and has sacked elected prime minister Laisenia Qarase and president Ratu Josefa Iloilo.
Bainimarama has appointed a 77 year-old army doctor, Dr Jona Senilagakali, as interim prime minister. Dr Senilagakali's office is located at the military's Queen Elizabeth Barracks, in Nabua, Suva. He is also head of Fiji's medical association, and is from the chiefly village of Tubou, Lakeba, in Lau.
This afternoon's move by Bainimarama drew a sharp response from Laisenia Qarase who said in a state of the nation speech: "Let me assure you, categorically, that under no circumstances will I resign as Prime Minister, or give advice to His Excellency (the President) to dissolve Parliament. There is no reason whatsoever, for me to do so."
"I am the democratically-elected Prime Minister, appointed in accordance with the Constitution, and the general election in May gave my party a clear majority in Parliament. The functions of law and order, as exercised by the Police, are intact. There is no outbreak of civil disorder. The public are coming out openly expressing their support for the maintenance of the rule of law and parliamentary democracy," Qarase said.
New Zealand Prime Minister, Helen Clark indicated that should Fiji's military not back off, New Zealand would seek the nation's expulsion from the Commonwealth, enforce a travel ban on senior Fiji military officials, suspend bilateral military exercises and associations with the exception of maritime patrols, disaster relief, and search and rescue operations.
Helen Clark said: “In a democratic country such as Fiji has been proud to be, governments are chosen through the ballot box, not at the point of a gun. Mr Qarase’s government was duly elected by the people. There is no justification whatsoever for the President’s actions,” Helen Clark said.
"The President has now acted outside his constitutional powers. Fiji’s constitution only allows the President to remove the Prime Minister if he has lost the confidence of Parliament. That is clearly not the case in this situation."
EARLIER TUESDAY: The Republic of Fiji Military Forces had slowly but surely strangled the life out of Laisenia Qarase's government. Fiji's President Ratu Josefa Iloilo had signed an order dissolving Parliament and gave the green light to Fiji's military to take over the running of the country. FijiLive reports Iloilo gave the go-ahead in a meeting earlier this morning with Fiji's army commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and his legal team.
But in a turn of heart, Ratu Josefa late Tuesday issued a statement saying he "neither condones nor supports" the actions taken by the military today. In a statement from Government House Iloilo said the actions by the military were "clearly outside the Constitution, contrary to the rule of law and our democratic ideals". See also… Ratu Josefa Iloilo's statement as released to Fiji Times.
Scoop Image by Selwyn Manning: Laisenia Qarase.
Meanwhile, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, said Laisenia Qarase told her this morning he had no intension of resigning his position: "The President has now acted outside his constitutional powers. Fiji’s constitution only allows the President to remove the Prime Minister if he has lost the confidence of Parliament. That is clearly not the case in this situation. I strongly urge the President and the Commodore Bainimarama to pull back from the brink immediately. If they do not, they will cause irreparable damage to Fiji’s economy and people," Helen Clark said. For more of this statement, see… Prime Minister condemns Fijian President's actions
New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has elevated its travel advisory to Fiji to 'high risk': "There is high risk to your security in Suva and an increasing risk in Fiji. We recommend against non-essential travel to Fiji at this time. There are reports that the Fiji military and President have undertaken unconstitutional actions to remove the Fiji Government. The situation may further deteriorate." For more of this statement, see… Fiji Travel Advisory - 5 December 2006
Also this morning, Laisenia Qarase said in an interview with Australia's ABC Radio the coup: "it's almost complete I suppose," adding "If this coup is completed I will just have to pack up and go home."
The comments came prior to Soldiers attempting to force entry into Qarase's house. The soldiers were reportedly unsuccessful and left the premises around 12:10pm (NZ time).
Qarase was hopeful of attending a meeting with Fiji's president Ratu Josefa Iloilo and Vice President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi at Government House in Suva. But that meeting is now unlikely. Speculation is rife that a dissolution of Parliament was on the agenda.
Qarase has told all his Cabinet ministers to work from home. Speaking on National Radio Qarase said the president's proposition is "to accept all the [Bainimarama] demands or to resign and I can't do either."
The meeting was initially scheduled for Monday night, but was postponed after soldiers refused to allow a vehicle carrying Qarase through Government House gates. The soldiers told their prime minister that he would have to walk up the road if he wanted to meet the president. Qarase refused, saying "I am not going to give in to their intimidating tactics."
Also a planned Cabinet meeting for Tuesday will not take place.
This morning, FijiLive reported the military will place all Fiji government ministers under house arrest. Four ministers have had their vehicles seized. By this afternoon, all minister vehicles and mobile phones will be seized.
Military checkpoints surround government buildings and have been placed throughout Suva and also as far west as the tourist centres of Nadi and Lautoka.
Soldiers are also becoming intolerant to foreign media. Television New Zealand's satellite technician Andrew McNaughton was stopped by soldiers and had his passport checked by soldiers on patrol outside the camp. Fiji Times reported the soldiers were seeking an Australian journalist.
from Fiji Times:
ON MONDAY Bodyguards protecting Fiji's prime minister handed their weapons over to the military. The move followed a day where Fijian Army soldiers in full combat gear took over the Fiji Police special armed force HQ, removing guns and ammunition, and set up checkpoints and barricades around the greater Suva area.
Slowly, by degrees, the Republic of Fiji Military Forces rendered ineffective any possible resistance to it conducting a military coup. Suva is now fully under commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama's control. Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase is now unable to assert influence or power over events unfolding throughout Viti Levu, Fiji's main island. Qarase is expected to attempt to meet with Fiji's president Ratu Josefa Iloilo today (Tuesday) after soldiers turned him away from the presidential gates on Monday.
New Zealand foreign minister, Winston Peters, will travel to Suva on Tuesday to work with New Zealand Foreign Affairs officials in an attempt to work with Qarase's government, and the military, to discover a way through this crisis.
EARLIER, Fiji Times reported that late on Monday morning Fijian Army soldiers took over the headquarters of the Fiji Police Tactical Response Division with ease, locking out members. A policeman who did not want to be named, called the media from the PTRD headquarters to say soldiers had taken over the compound.
The PTRD is the armed wing of the police force that deals with riots and uprisings and its disbanding was one of the army's key demands.
And FijiLive.com reported: several twin-cab vans carrying armed soldiers arrived at the premises after a briefing at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Nabua and the Force Training Group in Makoi.
FijiLive also reports the Fijian government had refused to dissolve: Qarase called a special Cabinet meeting for Tuesday to discuss what he described as the Fiji army's "ever changing demands."
It looks certain that meeting will now not take place.
Sources on Sunday Claimed the Republic of Fiji Military Forces were set to overthrow the government at 3am Monday. That passed, while support for the military's actions was sought from indigenous leaders and military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama put out a call for people to "apply" for roles in an interim Fijian government.
Information received by Scoop on Sunday from the Fiji Daily Post suggested:
1. The cabinet of the Qarase government has been differentially located for security purposes, but is still operational. 2. Meanwhile, the military commander (Frank Bainimarama) is claiming he is in control. 3. To underline his claim, the military commander is planning to seal off Suva at 3am Monday morning (4th December) to begin its long-promised 'clean-up' campaign. Just what this entails is hard to say, but a bloody struggle between government loyalists and Frank's rebel military is expected. 4. Sources say that the 'clean-up' will conclude a 'constitutional coup' in that Vice-President, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, is expected on Monday to dismiss Qarase government and swear-in an interim regime featuring some current politicians and former political players sidelined since Qarase's victory in May this year. 5. Some observers say the struggle for democracy in Fiji has a tribal dimension too with the House of Bau leading the overthrow. This is where the potential for bloodshed is most apparent and Australia (and the world) may well see Fiji go the way of the Solomons, Tonga, or worse. 6. In view of the ongoing deteriorating relationship between the Qarase government and the military command, the likely developments outlined above, and recent and current threats made by Fiji's military personnel to our newspaper and staff because of our principled criticisms of the military, and our forthright stand for democracy, the rule of law in Fiji, and respect for human rights and the elected government of the day, Australian publisher, Mr Alan Hickling, is supporting applications for political asylum in Australia for all current staff of the Fiji Daily Post. Assistance will be sought from the Australian High Commission in this regard.
For more on this Fijian crisis, see… Qarase Concedes - Military Achieves Political Coup