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Military Take Control in Fiji

By Shar Adams
Epoch Times Brisbane Staff
Dec 05, 2006

Coup in Fiji: The Military has sacked the entire Fijian government, including the President, who refused to sanction the military takeover. (Phil Walter/Getty Images)

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Fiji's military chief, Commodore Frank (Voreqe) Bainimarama, has ousted Fiji's Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, and declared the army in control of the small Pacific nation. Commodore Bainimarama was not long ago hailed as a hero for brokering a peaceful resolution to Fiji's last coup in 2000, and restoring democratic rule.

Now his reputation is in tatters with wide condemnation from around the world.

Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says Australia will suspend defence co-operation and the international response will be quick.

"The secretary-general of the United Nations has warned of implications for Fiji military personnel in international peacekeeping," he told the ABC.

"The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group will meet to discuss Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth during the course of next week."

The irony of Mr Bainimarama's present coup is that it is issues stemming from the earlier coup that have driven the military commander's dramatic actions.

In the 2000 coup, Fijian nationalist George Speight, stormed Parliament and took prisoner the country's first Indo Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudrey, plus more than 50 government ministers and lawmakers.

Mr Bainimarama forced the then president to resign, declared martial law and, while initially promising amnesty for coup leaders, reneged on that deal and had them arrested.

He then set up an interim government and chose former banker Laiseria Qarase, to be the new leader.

Mr Qarase has successfully maintained that position through two general elections but a falling out occurred between the two when the Government proposed an amnesty for coup perpetrators.

Mr Qarase also refused to remove two Cabinet Ministers who were former coup participants.

They each served only two months of a two year prison sentence.

While observers have accused Mr Bainimarama for being overly paranoid about the former coup leaders, he does have reason to be concerned.

According to the International Herald Tribune, the bitterness remaining among indigenous Fijians was never fully resolved and late in 2000 an assassination attempt was made on Mr Bainimarama in the officer's mess in the Suva barracks.

Three loyalists and five rebel troops died in the 2000 mutiny.