Fiji PM Fails To Oust Military Chief - Bainimarama Orders Govt To Stand Down
Compiled by Selwyn Manning
For More information see… www.fijilive.com/
ALSO, Scoop Audio (click here to listen): Selwyn Manning on the BBC: Reports how Fiji's government has lost control of its military after its PM Qarase ordered the country's military chief to be sacked. In turn Fiji's Army chief has ordered Qarase's government to resign or be forced from office.
The Fiji government has lost control of its military after Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase sought to have Army Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama sacked.
On October 16 Bainimarama issued an ultimatum: that Fiji's Prime Minister Qarase had until November 6 to back off two controversial bills (an indigenous coastal rights bill and a reconciliation bill) or face being run out of office by the Fijian Army.
Qarase is understood to have met with Fiji's president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, on Tuesday morning seeking a presidential order demanding Bainimarama stand down as head of the Royal Fiji Military Force. Qarase urged that Bainimarama be replaced by Lt Colonel Meli Saubulinayau.
The news organisation FijiLive reports that Qarase had demanded that if Bainimarama did not stand down then he and his government would resign office.
Senior military chiefs have refused to carry out the order, and have moved to show support for their commander. Bainimarama has countered the government's order reportedly stating that Qarase's government must resign gracefully.
Bainimarama, who is still in Iraq visiting Fijian soldiers based there, told FijiLive the last thing he wanted was violence and that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase should be held responsible if that were to happen: "Now that they have failed to remove me all that needs to be done is for the Government to resign gracefully. If it does not happen, the military does not want any violence," he told Fijilive. Bainimarama added that the Qarase government was corrupt: "They have to be removed."
Meanwhile, the Fiji Times reported that a meeting between Fiji's military and police had also been held on Tuesday morning after the government had ordered police to seal a shipping container load of M-16 bullets from being handed to the military.
Fiji Times reported the Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes had "refused to allow the container to clear the docks for fear the military would use it to destabilize the government". The Times reported Andrew Hughes as stating: "Any soldier who attempts to remove the consignment of live ammunition that arrived in the country on Sunday will face the full brunt of the law."
But the Fiji Sun newspaper has reported Bainimarama warning the police to back off: "I warn Hughes to act sensibly and release the ammunition because if anything happens he will pack his bag and fly back to Australia, leaving the country in a mess."
The military commander, Frank Bainimarama, cast a long shadow in the week prior the Pacific Islands Forum. Even though Bainimarama was in the Middle East visiting Royal Fiji Military Force soldiers (and no doubt the hundreds of his former soldiers who had been poached by security companies and now operate as private soldiers in Iraq and Kuwait) his ultimatum drew concerns from both the New Zealand and Australian prime ministers who insisted that their personal security be beefed up while attending the Forum and that a 'fast escape' contingency plan be at the reader should soldiers turn up at the Denarau Island Resort where leaders gathered for the Pacific Islands Forum.
Last week, while covering the Forum in Nadi, Fiji, Scoop sought the views of Fijians as to why their military was threatening to over-throw the Fijian government. Should the demands of Fiji's military commander be taken seriously? All said most definitely.
When talking to people on Nadi's street they, taxi drivers and others, both indigenous Fijians and Fijian Indians, said Bainimarama is serious, that he should be taken at his word, and what's more all said Bainimarama had their support.
ALSO: Scoop Feature - Feature: Why Fiji's Military Believes It Ought To Threaten Its Govt - Scoop's Selwyn Manning writes that last week, while covering the Forum in Nadi, Fiji, Scoop sought the views of Fijians as to why their military was threatening to over-throw the Fijian government. Should the demands of Fiji's military commander be taken seriously? All said most definitely. What's more, all said Bainimarama had their support. Why is this so? See... Scoop Feature: Fiji An Icon Of Pacific Instability
Scoop Report: Clark Says Bainimarama Should Stand Aside - New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has called on Fiji's military commander to "step aside" after the island nation's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase failed yesterday to have him removed. See... NZ PM Calls For Fiji Military Boss To Stand Aside Scoop Audio: Selwyn Manning and Radio Adelaide's Peter Godfrey discuss: How Fiji's government appears to have lost control of its military after its PM Qarase ordered the military chief to be sacked.