5 Jan 2007

Fiji military returns executive control to President Ratu Josefa Iloilo

10:45 am on 5 January 2007

Fiji's military has returned executive control of the country to deposed president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, in exchange for assurances of protection and immunity from prosecution.

Military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, announced the return of power to the President at a media conference yesterday afternoon.

The move will enable the President to appoint an interim government to run the country until new elections are held.

The news Web site fijilive.com quotes unidentified sources as saying that President Iloilo will appoint the Commodore as interim prime minister.

In his first public appearance since the army took over in December, the President endorsed the actions taken by the military as valid in law.

He said he fully endorsed the actions of its Commander in acting in the interest of the nation and most importantly in upholding the constitution.

He said he would have done exactly what the commander did since it was necessary to do so at that time.

During his televised speech yesterday, Commodore Bainimarama, listed 25 reasons for the impasse between the military and the administraton run by the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase.

He also criticised the international community's response to the coup.

And he singled out Australia in particular.

"The threat of an Australian invasion as shown by the incitement and hostile remarks made by Alexander Downer. The unexplained presence of an Australian defence force helicopter within Fiji's EEZ and the frequent references to the Biketawa declaration made this threat a real one."

Similar criticism about New Zealand's attitude to the coup was contained in a report from Fiji's Human Rights Commission, released earlier in the week.

The New Zealand government had denounced the coup as illegal and called on Fiji army officers to overthrow their own rebellious commander.

Director Shaista Shameem says the New Zealand and Australian governments seemed to depend on information being given only by certain groups.

She outlined in the report that the role of NGO's to disseminate accurate information to donor countries, must be reviewed.

And I think that's the reason why any intelligence that New Zealand government receives should be verified, Number 1, and secondly you need to be able to realise that just because New Zealand funds some NGO's, those NGO's don't have the only view on what's going on in the country. We found that extremely disappointing.

Shaista Shameem says reports on the legality or illegality of events in Fiji need to be made carefully.

The report also says that New Zealand's reaction to the coup damaged human rights in Fiji.

And it criticised Prime Minister Helen Clark's condemnation of the military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama, saying it was potentially dangerous.

The government's Duty Minister, Ruth Dyson, says the report came as a surprise.

Ruth Dyson says while most of the report's findings can be refuted, the report will be carefully looked at.