30 Jan 2004

Mixed reaction in Fiji to reappointment of military commander

11:43 am on 30 January 2004

There has been mixed reaction in Fiji to the re-appointment of Commodore Frank Bainimarama as the military commander.

President Iloilo made the appointment public yesterday following advice from the Minister from Home Affairs, Joketani Cokanasiga, after he had consulted the National Security Council and its chairman, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

The former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka and the opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, have welcomed the news.

However MP Samisoni Tikonisau, the brother of coup leader George Speight,

says the way Commodore Bainimarama was reinstated is unethical.

He says the military has exerted too much pressure on the government to reappoint him.

"It seems to be that they are exerting a whole lot of unnecessary pressure upon the government, bordering on insubordination as it were. And this has been going on for some months now, and I'm sure in any democracy so-called, it is totally unacceptable behaviour."

Mr Tikonisau says that there are still unresolved issues with regard to the deaths within the military during the mutiny in 2000.

He says the mutiny was a reflection on leadership and there were unhealthy divisions within the military.

Meanwhile, Mr Rabuka says the delay in making the re-appointment has only heightened fears of further instability.

He says the decision should have been made public much sooner to avoid the stand-off between the military and the government.

Why didn't they do it when the issue first arose because over the last few weeks there has been a lot of speculation, a lot of erosion of confidence, people were unsure, they were delaying investments, they were delaying commitment on things they wanted to do. Because there was this unresolved question which was played upon by the media and the rumour mongers in Fiji, creating a lot of fear of instability.

Mr Rabuka says he has always maintained there were no grounds for the government to terminate Commodore Bainimarama's appointment.

He says there was never any suggestion he was not performing and his appointment was not on a contract basis, like previous expatriate commanders.