12 Apr 2007

Fiji military chief bewildered over chiefs' snub

3:12 pm on 12 April 2007

Fiji's interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has expressed disappointment with the decision of the Great Council of Chiefs to reject President Iloilo's nomination of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to be vice president.

In a statement, Commodore Bainimarama says the chiefs' decision was reportedly based on the premise that Ratu Epeli as the interim minister for foreign affairs is part of an illegal regime and should not be endorsed for the position.

He says it is premature and irrational to bring in such reasoning because it is the judicial and legal process which determine the legality or otherwise of the interim administration.

Commodore Bainimarama says Ratu Epeli Nailatikau is a man of remarkable qualities, experience and vision, having held the positions of military commander, diplomat, Speaker of parliament and more recently as interim minister.

The interim prime minister says he is bewildered why the chiefs rejected Ratu Epeli.

He says Ratu Epeli is being penalised for responding to the call of the nation and agreeing to help move the country forward after the December 5 military takeover.

Commodore Bainimarama says it is unfortunate that the chiefs did not see fit to make the right decision based on objectivity and facts.

He says instead of pulling together at a time of need, they had drifted apart based on prejudiced advice and personal agendas.

Commodore Bainimarama and the minister for Fijian affairs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, have decided to boycott today's GCC meeting.

Ratu Epeli Ganilau said it would be pointless to brief the council on the progress and plans of the interim administration.

"We're certainly not going back to the Great Council of Chiefs meeting, I mean there's no point going there when that is the attitude of the Council that they do not recognise the interim administration so we'll be out of the meeting but we'll be having discussions within our government."

Ratu Epeli says one of their options would be to put foward a new nomination for Vice President, one which would be more acceptable to the chiefs.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Citizen Constitutional Forum says every person should have the right to appear before a court despite the country being under emergency rule.

Tomorrow the lawyers of the ousted prime minister and the military are to meet in a bid find an agreement for Laisenia Qarase to return to Suva to attend his court case that challenges the legality of the coup.

Mr Qarase has been in exile on his home island since the coup last December.

The military insists that he stay there for security reasons.

But the Citizen Constitutional Forum's executive director, the Reverend Akuila Yabaki, says every person has the right to a fair hearing.

If the person itself who is part of the judiciary process is not allowed to attend then that shows that there is some interference in the independence of the court for the judicial process. And that does affect what one might call the return to normalcy.

The Reverend Akuila Yabaki, the Citizen Constitutional Forum's executive director in Fiji.