10 Aug 2009

Fiji regime leader says Cabinet is to choose next President, not chiefs

3:09 pm on 10 August 2009

Fiji's interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says at its next meeting the cabinet will choose who will be the next president, adding the new office holder can be of any race.

Commodore Bainimarama says in line with the interim regime's policy there will be no discrimination in respect of race.

The move is reported by the Fiji Sun newspaper and follows the weekend farewell of the previous president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, who in April said that he had abrogated the 1997 constitution.

Under the constitution, the power to choose a president rested with the Great Council of Chiefs which was to select an indigenous Fijian.

When Ratu Josefa retired at the end of last month, a former military commander, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, was put in his place as acting president.

Commodore Bainimarama purported to be the president himself after he staged the 2006 coup but the Great Council of Chiefs refused to confirm him in the position, maintained that Ratu Josefa was still in power.

As a consequence, Commodore Bainimarama suspended the Council, handed the presidency back to Ratu Josefa and made himself the interim prime minister.

Fiji's regime is now running the country by decree but has said it will begin drawing up a new constitution in about three years.