22 Mar 2004

Fiji PM seeks to defuse row between ministry and military commander

3:19 pm on 22 March 2004

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has moved to resolve a public row between the head of his office, Jioji Kotobalavu, and the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Commodore Bainimarama has called for the removal of Mr Kotobalavu and two senior officials of the home affairs ministry because he says they are a threat to national security and the cause of poor relations between the military and the government.

Radio station Legend quotes Mr Qarase as saying the military operates under the control of the home affairs minister and if the commander has any concerns, he should raise them with Joketani Cokanasiga.

Mr Qarase says the public service commission is the body which appoints public servants and Commodore Bainimarama should respect its constitutional authority.

The prime minister has told the home affairs minister to call in the military commander and explain the constitutional position to him.

Mr Qarase also wants the minister to brief Commodore Bainimarama on the appropriate avenues of communication.

The prime minister says he expects government officials and the commander to work well together in serving the government of the day.

Meanwhile, Commodore Bainimarama has told Radio Legend that he has discussed the issue with the home affairs minister and understands the work of the public service commission.