7 May 2004

Fiji military commander tried to seize power - officers

6:12 am on 7 May 2004

Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, is facing public allegations that he planned to remove the Qarase government and take over control late last year.

Fiji Television reports that the allegations have been made by three of the five senior officers whom Commodore Bainimarama sent on leave in January for refusing to pledge allegiance to him and who were later told to resign.

The three are Col Alfred Tuatoko whom George Speight tried to name as commander during the coup, Lt Col Samu Raduva and Commander Tevita Koroi of the navy.

They claim in a signed statement that the plan to take over the government was made at the height of the stand-off between the government and Commodore Bainmarama over the issue of his reappointment for another term.

Only the minister for foreign affairs, President Iloilo and the Great Council of Chiefs were to remain.

The three claim they were removed for refusing to support the plan.

They also claim that Commodre Bainmarama had told them that removing the government might be legally wrong but was morally correct.

Fiji's minister for home affairs, Joketani Cokanasiga, says if the officers making the allegations had known of such plans, they should have informed him then.

He says it's their word against the commander's.