NZ PM Calls For Fiji's Military Boss To Stand Aside
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor
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.
Scoop News: 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.
Helen Clark has said Fiji's government was legitimately elected and had followed a process to stand down Royal Fiji Military Force's commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
Through a spokesperson, Helen Clark told Scoop that Bainimarama - who is currently in Iraq visiting Fijian soldiers – should accept calls for his suspension and stand aside.
Prior to the Pacific Islands Forum, the Fiji government had been embarrassed after Bainimarama (on October 16) 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.
Yesterday, Qarase met with Fiji's president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, seeking a presidential order demanding Bainimarama stand down as head of the Military. The order was issued and Qarase urged that Bainimarama be replaced by Lt Colonel Meli Saubulinayau.
The news organisation FijiLive reported that Qarase had demanded that if Bainimarama did not stand down then he and his government would resign office. However, the bluff backfired after senior military chiefs yesterday refused to carry out the order and demonstrated total support for their commander Bainimarama.
Bainimarama then countered the government's order stating that Qarase's government must resign gracefully. If it did not, he said it would be overthrown. Australia has issued a travel warning advising caution for those traveling in Fiji. It has also committed a navy vessel to travel to Fiji to assist Australians who may require assistance should the nation descend into civil disorder.
A spokesperson for New Zealand's Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Scoop that it is monitoring the situation closely, and will reassess its travel advisory to Fiji should that become necessary.
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