30 May 2003

Fresh claims surrounding Fiji President Mara's demise

6:35 am on 30 May 2003

It's been claimed in Fiji that the removal from office of the former president, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, at the time of the coup was orchestrated by senior government officials.

The claim has been made by the official secretary to the president at the time, Joe Browne, in a Fiji Television report.

Mr Browne has called for all the officials involved to be brought before the courts to explain their actions.

His statement comes as police have revealed that they are investigating the people involved in the removal of the president.

It follows calls by the lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, that such officials should be investigated and not just high chiefs like the vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli.

A group of officers including the army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the former police commissioner, Col Isikia Savua, and the chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, were among a delegation which asked Ratu Mara to step aside.

The military then declared martial law and abrogated the 1997 constitution.

Mr Browne says he was forced to evacuate the former president to a naval vessel in Suva harbour because of the orchestrated threats and Ratu Mara was taken to his home island in the Lau province.