26 Sep 2005

Military commander in Fiji defends planned meeting with opposition leader

7:00 am on 26 September 2005

Fiji's military commander says it is normal for the opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, to want to meet to discuss issues with him.

Commodore Bainimarama's comments to the Sunday Times follow a government statement that Mr Chaudhry should not go to the military commander because he would be deliberately thwarting the authority of the ministry of home affairs.

Mr Chaudhry said last week that he was fast losing confidence in the ability of the police to carry coup investigations and wanted the military to take on the responsibility.

The Home Affairs minister hit out at Mr Chaudhry in parliament and the information minister, Marieta Rigamoto, said it was not the army's role to delve into matters relating to the maintenance of law and order.

But Commodore Bainimarama says Mr Chaudhry has the freedom to speak and discuss anything with anyone in the country and he is due to meet the opposition leader today.

Mr Chaudhry says as opposition leader, he has free access to the military commander and the police commissioner on issues of national security.

He says the statements made by the ministers show they have little understanding of democracy.