18 Dec 2002

Fiji army remains on high alert after further threat to its commander

4:28 pm on 18 December 2002

The army in Fiji remains on high alert over an attempt to remove the military commander, Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama.

Armed troops remain guarding all entrances at the main army camp on the outskirts of Suva after a regular soldier was found circulating a petition seeking the commander's resignation.

The soldier was detained and the secretary of the Fiji Peacekeepers Association, which is circulating the petition, says police have said there could be further arrests.

Taniela Senikuta says they're calling for Rear Admiral Bainimarama to go, in part because the military turned down their request for a goodwill payment for soldiers involved in peacekeeping.

"The boys are just human, these are frustrating times and I think it just boils down to that...we have been waiting for long, we have freedom of association, freedom of expression, so I think we are just asserting our rights which are in the Fiji Constitution, nothing unusual, nothing sinister."

Rear Admiral Bainimarama says the Fiji Peacekeeping Association is colluding with serving senior military officers who were involved in the coup and the mutiny in 2000.

Mr Senikuta denies this but says that soldiers are entitled to have an opinion.

Police raided the offices of the Peacekeepers Association to search for the names of regular troops who signed the petition.