20 Mar 2003

Tensions reported between Fiji president and the military commander

10:23 am on 20 March 2003

Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, is reported to be opposing a government directive to stop all investigations into the May 2000 coup and the army mutinies that year.

Fiji TV reports that this has led to tension between the commander and the president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, who signed the directive as the army's commander in chief.

Prominent people, senior military officers and high chiefs have been named in the course of coup investigations.

But Commodore Bainimarama is opposed to the directive and wants all those involved to be tried..

Fiji TVs sources have confirmed correspondence on the issue and that Commodore Bainimarama has had to remind a number of political leaders of the role the army played in putting them into office in the first place.

The army spokesman, Warrant Officer Neumi Leweni, says the nature of the discussions between the commander and the president have not been revealed.

But, he says, the military will not bow to anyone over the course of the investigations into the coup and even the commander has no influence over the court martial of soldiers.

Meanwhile the five assessors in the treason trial of coup accomplices Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu remained isolated last night while they considered their verdict.

Justice Andrew Wilson will convene the court again today to hear if they have reached a decision..