15 Dec 2003

Fiji civil servant defends government on army leadership query

5:16 pm on 15 December 2003

A top civil servant in Fiji says allegations the government is attempting to get rid of the army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, are wild.

This follows comments by the opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, that if the contract isn't renewed when it expires at the end of February, it means the government is trying to protect criminal elements involved in the coup.

The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Colonel Jeremiah Waqanisau, says however, that the commander has nothing to do with the criminal prosecutions associated with the coup.

Mr Waqanisau says it is the police and associated agencies which are required to do this.

"The ongoing investigations by the police department in Fiji and also by the judiciary in relationship to all those implicated in the 2000 coup and all those who have been brought to justice now, the commander of the RFMF has nothing whatsoever to do with that, nothing whatsoever. This is the work of the police together with the agencies involved in this."

Mr Waqanisau says the army commander is involved in the military proceedings for those charged in the coup and the mutiny.

And, he says the army is a professional body so whoever is appointed to the position, will continue the investigations and prosecutions.