Colonel Lashes Out At New Zealand Minister
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Staff Reporters USP's Pacific Journalism Online
SUVA: Fiji's former military spokesman in the wake of the May coup, Lieutenant-Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini, has lashed out a New Zealand minister and hinted at leaving the military as a probe began into the causes of the mutiny.
Lieutenant-Colonel Tarakinikini said on Fiji Television last night that he would reconsider his military career in the wake of New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff's comments implying that he was linked with last Thursday's failed takeover of the Fiji military headquarters which left eight soldiers dead.
One of the military's high flyers who was studying for an MBA and who earlier had a leadership role in the elite counter revolutionary warfare (CRW) unit which triggered the mutiny, Lieutenant-Colonel Tarakinikini has persistently been the target of rumours over the coup on May 19.
Goff was reported as saying that the rebel soldiers wanted to replace military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama with the colonel.
"There is some suspicion that the person that rebel forces have been trying to replace Commodore Bainimarama with is Lieutenant-Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini," Goff said last Thursday in a news clip shown on Fiji Television last night.
"Lieutenant-Colonel Tarakinikini, as you'll know, was the spokesperson and the public relations person for the army after the coup."
However, Lieutenant-Colonel Tarakinikini said he was "disgusted and appalled" by the comments made by Goff.
He was quoted in today's Fiji Sun as saying he had been the subject of suspicion, accusation and malicious allegations even before the overthrow of the elected Fiji Labour Party-led coalition government on May 19.
"However, no evidence has ever been produced to prove these allegations, nor have I been investigated."
Lieutenant-Colonel Tarakinikini, who became a media celebrity during his role as spokesperson for the military in the wake of the coup led by failed businessman George Speight, said he had served his country to the best of his ability.
The Daily Post reported today that two wounded rebel members of the CRW unit, or First Meridian Squadron as it was recently renamed, were treated at the Namaka Health Centre in the west of the country.
The rebels were treated for their wounds and fled before the authorities were alerted.
Two more rebels have surrendered to the military in the rainforest area of Colo-i-Suva, about 10 km from Suva.
About 12 rebels, armed with M16 and K2 assault rifles, pistols and ammunition, still remain on the run.
Police have launched investigations into the mutiny at Queen Elizabeth Barracks with a team headed by Assistant Police Commissioner (Crime) Emosi Vunisa.
Vunisa said the investigation would be a combined operation between the military police and the Fiji police force.
"They will be assisting us in the investigations. It will be similar to investigations over suspects of the May 19 coup," he said.
Military authorities also confirmed post mortems on the three dead loyalist soldiers, five rebels and prison escapee Alifereti Nimacere, who was shot by the military on Friday night amid allegations of brutality by soldiers, would be held this week.
The three loyalist soldiers killed were all unarmed.
One was reportedly shot at point blank range, another through the window of his office as he sat at his computer and the third as he lay in bed in the camp hospital.