Takeover Inevitable - Military Tightens Grip On Viti Levu
Image by Scoop's Selwyn Manning - UPDATED 11pm Monday 04/12/06: Bodyguards protecting Fiji's prime minister have 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.
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