17 Dec 2003

Calls continue for Fiji army commander's contract to be renewed

12:01 pm on 17 December 2003

The chairman of the Great Council of chiefs and former army commander, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, has backed Commodore Bainimarama's retention, saying he is doing a fantastic job.

The commander says he wants to have a new contract when it expires in

Ratu Epeli brought him in from the navy to head the military when he was leaving in 1999, despite objections from senior army officers.

Fiji 's opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, is reiterating his call that the government renew the commander's contract.

Mr Beddoes says Commodore Bainimarama has always upheld the constitution and arrested and court-martialled those soldiers involved in the coup and the mutiny.

He says he wants the commander's contract renewed but fears this won't happen.

"I suspect because the commander has his own mind and I would suspect that the government is trying to put someone in there that they can control and who will respond to what they want. And, that's a very dangerous situation for us because I'd like to think that the military has its set of rules, set down by the government and set down by the parliament and that the officers, who swear an oath of allegiance to the constitution and the protection of the people, uphold it. And, the current commander does just that."

The permanent secretary of the ministry of home affairs, Colonel Jeremiah Waqanisau, says the government will make a decision at the appropriate time.