12 Dec 2006

Security in Fiji's capital is likely to remain tight

12:24 pm on 12 December 2006

Security in Fiji's capital is likely to remain tight for the next few days as the military says it still

has concerns about possible unrest after its seized power last week.

The military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says there are concerns the ousted Prime Minister may

try to return to the Suva.

From there, Philippa Tolley has more.

"The Commodore said comments by Laisenia Qarase, about returning to the capital from his home in the Lau groups of islands and the possibility of an upswell in violence, has caused concern. He says the checkpoints that are set up at major road junctions around Suva will remain for a short time, but he says their presence is being reviewed daily. The Commodore has also urged the Australian government not to add to the tension saying comments by the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, for the people to resist the military could easily incite people and the military would have to respond with force. Meanwhile, there is a deadline for four o'clock today for applications for those wanting to apply to be part of Fiji's interim government."

Fiji's former opposition leader says New Zealand and Australia should have been more involved with Fiji in the lead up to the coup.

Mick Beddoes says the military coup was home-grown and is no fault of other neighbouring countries.

But he says there was definitely room to take more positive action early, as tension in Fiji had been brewing for some time.

Mr Beddoes says that would have been possible if there had been more regular communication between the countries.

However, a junior minister in Fiji's former SDL government who sacked by the deposed prime minister two months ago says he supports the military's clean-up campaign.

Rajesh Singh, who was minister of state for youth and sport, has told the Fiji Times the clean-up should have been done a long time ago.

Mr Singh says the military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, is only trying to do what he himself had tried to do before he was sacked in October.

He says he had initiated an audit of the South Pacific Games financial account but was fired.

Mr Singh says what has happened has happened and people need to move on with their lives.

Meanwhile, Fiji's Human Rights Commission has told the military it will document and investigate any alleged abuses.

There are concerns over threatening phone calls being made warning human rights advocates warning them not

to speak against the military.

Several correspondents who have written letters to the editor have been taken in for questioning, along with

a former cabinet minister.

The Human Rights Commissioner in Fiji, Shamima Ali, says the military knows they are concerned.

Wherever there is a violation of Human Rights according to the Bill or Rights and a complaint comes to us or if there is a documented complaint, which is open to the public, we will investigate those and also we will continue to monitor and document any violation of human rights that we believe is occurring.

A coalition of Fiji NGOs is calling for all Fiji citizens to show their support for peace and democracy by wearing a Fiji blue ribbon.

The symbol was first used as part of a women's peace vigil during the coup in 2000.

The coalition for peace and democracy, which has revived the practice, says the ribbon - blue for the Fiji flag - continues to represent a unified stand for the promotion of peace, reconciliation and unity, based on the principles of human rights, democracy and the upholding of the 1997 Constitution.

Meanwhile, the Republic of Palau has condemned the Fiji coup.

Palau's chief of staff, Billy Kuartei, says for President Tommy Remengesau this is a major setback for Fiji.

Mr Kuartei says the situation in Fiji is disturbing and does not bode well for other Pacific countries.

The president expressed condemnation as to what has happened because we had agreed to solve whatever problem we face in an amicable solution or way and so this was like a slap on the democratic process.

Billy Kuartei says that all Palauans in Fiji have been advised to return home until the situation in Fiji is resolved.

Meanwhile, the lawyer for Sitiveni Rabuka is unhappy about some aspects of the inciting mutiny charges brought against

his client in Fiji's High Court.

Yesterday afternoon, Justice Gerard Winter found Mr Rabuka not guilty on two counts of inciting mutiny

relating to July and November 2000

But after the verdict was delivered, the defence lawyer, Peter Maiden said he had several issues with

the case.

We are critical of the Prosecution in the delay in bringing these charges, we only being charged in May of 2006. The first trial stopped when the assessors were discharged when it was discovered that there were relevant military files involving the events specifically of the 2nd of November, those documents previously had been secret.

Mr Maiden is calling for the documents to be released so that everyone in Fiji knows what happened during

the mutiny in 2000, which lead to the deaths of eight soldiers.

Fiji's military has received over 300 applications from people offering to take up positions in the interim administration it proposes to set up after last week's coup.

The military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, has confirmed that the military council currently holding executive authority in Fiji is going through the applications.

They will be short-listed after applications close today.

Commodore Bainimarama says he will meet with state chief executives today and convey the decisions of the military council to them.