21 May 2004

No leave for Fiji's military commander during inquiry

10:55 am on 21 May 2004

Fiji's military commander will neither be sent on leave, nor be told to step aside, while a commission in inquiry looks into allegations against him.

Radio Legend says this has been confirmed by the home affairs minister, Joketani Cokanasiga, who says Commodore Bainimarama, will carry on his duties as head of the military.

Mr Cokanasiga says Commodore Bainimarama is not guilty of anything, and he has to be presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Mr Cokanasiga says the vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, the deputy speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, and the sports minister, Isireli Leweniqila, are all charged with serious coup offences and they still hold public office.

Earlier, a senior official of the prime minister's office was quoted as saying that it would only be fair that the commander go on leave while he's being investigated.

The former police commissioner, Colonel Isikia Savua, went on leave while he was investigated.

The official, who didn't wish to be named, said sending Commodore Bainimarama on leave, was one of the matters under consideration.

Meanwhile, the military has expressed disappointment that the cabinet decision to appoint a commission of inquiry was made without any input from the military.

Commodore Bainimarama said this was particularly so, when the three officers making the allegations were themselves, under investigation for the year 2000 coup and mutiny.