31 Oct 2006

Fiji president's office denies ordering the sacking of military chief

7:06 pm on 31 October 2006

The office of Fiji's president and commander-in-chief, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, has denied ordering the sacking of the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Some earlier reports said that President Iloilo had ordered that Commodore Bainimarama be sacked and replaced by another senior army officer, Colonel Meli Saubulinayau.

The reports said the president issued the order after meeting the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and his home affairs minister, Josefa Vosanibola, at Government House.

But Radio Fiji reports that the president's official secretary, Rupeni Naceva, has denied that the president has ordered Commodore Bainimarama's suspension.

The military spokesman, Major Neumi Leweni, has also denied rumours of a power struggle in the military hierarchy.

Major Leweni says nothing has changed and the military is intact.

Major Leweni has also denied that Col Saubulinayau has been appointed to replace the acting commander, navy Captain Esala Teleni.

He says senior military officers, including Col Saubulinayau, visited President Iloilo and pledged their loyalty and support for Commodore Bainimarama.

Commodore Bainimarama had insisted that the Qarase government withdraw two controversial bills or resign.

The army camp in Suva has been out of bounds to all except territorial soldiers and navy reservists today.

Meanwhile, the police commissioner, Andrew Hughes, has denied claims that they will arrest Commodore Bainimarama when he lands at Nadi Airport on his arrival from Iraq where he is visiting Fiji troops.