23 Mar 2004

Fijian Political Party accuses government of provoking army commander

8:15 am on 23 March 2004

The Fijian Political party, the SVT, has accused the government of deliberately provoking the military in the recent public row between the head of the prime minister's office, Jioji Kotobalavu and the army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

The general secretary of the SVT, Ema Druavesi, has told the Fiji Sun newspaper that Mr Kotobalavu should not have made statements that were insulting to the military.

She says if the commander acted the way he did, he would have had reason to do so because he was deliberately provoked.

Ms Druavesi says everything began with the cut in the military budget this year which was a plan to weaken the army's strength.

She questions why the government is squandering taxpayer's dollars but is not prepared to pay compensation to soon-to-be-demobilised soldiers who will be out of jobs.

Meanwile, it has also been revealed that part of the reason for Commodore Bainimarama's anger at the weekend was insistence by government officials that he take back five senior officers who were recently sent on indefinite leave.

The army says the current court martial has revealed that some senior army officers were involved with George Speight's group and it does not seem logical to take them back in order to achieve what officials call a harmonious relationship.