12 May 2004

Fiji minister downplays accusations against army commander

9:19 am on 12 May 2004

Fiji's home affairs minister, Joketani Cokanasiga, has downplayed claims from three suspended senior army officers that Commodore Frank Bainimarama planned to overthrow the Qarase government.

The Fiji Times reports that after his meeting with the prime minister yesterday, Mr Cokanasiga said the situation was not an issue as the officers had made only allegations.

He said it was only the media which had picked up certain segments of the allegations and made them into an issue.

Mr Cokanasiga said there was a difference between planning and actually carrying out a coup, and NO coup was carried out.

He said the officers making the allegations are concerned about their careers in the military and sought "redress of wrong."

Mr Cokanasiga said he had discussed a number of issues with Mr Qarase including the reason behind the allegations by the officers because in their petition they wanted to be compensated.

The minister says he will discuss the issue with Commodore Bainimarama on his return from the United States at the weekend and submit a report to the National Security Council.

If the council wants more information, Commodore Bainimarama will be asked to make a personal appearance.