6 Dec 2006

Fiji PM flies by helicopter to Lau after eviction by military

10:41 am on 6 December 2006

The Fiji prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has flown to Mavana in the Lau group of islands after being told by the military to vacate his residence in Suva.

According to local media reports, he left his residence in the early hours of this morning less than 12 hours after the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, declared himself president.

The prime minister has refused to resign and the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, has told the Great Council of Chiefs that he has retained executive power.

The Council has deferred a meeting at which the self-styled President was to cede his power to Ratu Josefa.

The military has imposed censorship on the local media and says it will now have officers join editorial meetings.

Last night when Commodore Bainimarama made himself acting President, in explained, in a prepared statement, his rationale for taking over the executive authority of the country.

"RFMF [Royal Fijian Military Forces] over the years has been raising security concerns with the government, in particular, the introduction of controversial bills and policies that have divided the nation now and will have very serious consequences for our future generations. These concerns have been conveyed to the prime minister in all fairness and sincerity. Apparently all RFMF concerns were never accepted with trued spirit."

Commodore Bainimarama claimed Mr Qarase had no intention of solving the crisis.

He says the stalemate forced him to takeover.

The RFMF throughout this impasse has wanted to resolve this matter constitutionally, legally, and expeditiously. The RFMF could have carried out unconstitutional and illegal activities but has not done so and will not do so. It believes in the rule of law and shall adhere to the constitution.

Commodore Bainimarama claims the military did its best to avert a coup and he says the military has adhered to the constitution throughout.

Our position can be differentiated from the Qarase Government which, for example, through the passing of the reconciliation, the Qoliqoli and land claims [bills] will undermine the constitution, will deprive many citizens of their rights guaranteed under the constitution and compromise and undermine the integrity of constitutional offices including the judiciary.