13 Dec 2004

Fiji's Home Affairs Minister defends military leader over Presidential visit

8:06 am on 13 December 2004

Fiji's Home Affairs minister has defended the military commander's right to see President Iloilo directly on matters of national security.

Commodore Bainimarama has been strongly criticised by the Prime Minister, the Attorney General and the government for seeing President Iloilo on matters relating to the appointment of a new vice president because, he said, it affected national security.

But the home affairs minister, Joketani Cokanasiga, has told the Sunday Times Commodore Bainimarama has a direct link on matters of national security to the president who is the commander in chief of the military.

Mr Cokanasiga says the former vice president was jailed because of a criminal offence and perhaps the commander is concerned someone of a similar background could be appointed again.

Mr Cokanasiga says like anybody else, the commander has a right to be concerned about national security and about those elements who could, by their actions, subvert the law.

He says the commander sees him on policy issues as

defined in the Military Act but how he runs the army is his prerogative.

Last Friday, Laisenia Qarase said the military had continued to step out of their area of responsibility and says the home affairs portfolio might be given to another minister.