22 Jan 2007

Fiji coup staged to help military commmander avoid criminal charges - ousted prime minister

4:28 pm on 22 January 2007

Fiji's ousted Prime Minister says the military commander staged last month's coup to avoid serious criminal charges.

Laisenia Qarase made the comment following a decree from Fiji's president granting full immunity to those involved in the December 5th takeover.

Mr Qarase says he believes the immunity decree is illegal and hypocritical because after the 2000 coup Commodore Bainimarama was determined to ensure those involved were brought to justice.

He says the same commander has now granted immunity to himself and his colleagues.

"The main reason for the coup was for the commander to protect himself because our police force was closing in on investigations into some serious allegatons against him, even as recently as November when he was obviously guilty of sedition at least before he committed treason."

Mr Qarase says he doubts the commander will lead the country to fresh elections because he wants to retain control.