How We Present
State of emergency declared in Fiji
by Ray Lilley
The Associated Press Translate This Article
7 December 2006
SUVA, Fiji (AP) _ Fiji's military commander declared a state of emergency and installed a new prime minister and police chief Wednesday, a day after he overthrew the elected government and brought international sanctions and censure that began to isolate the South Pacific country.
It was the nation's fourth coup in 19 years. The radio network Legend quoted a military statement saying that armed forces would set up a cordon of checkpoints around the capital, Suva, as part of the state of emergency.
``As of 6 o'clock this evening, the military has taken over the government, has executive authority and the running of this country,'' Commodore Frank Bainimarama, the armed forces chief credited with resolving Fiji's last coup, said Tuesday in a nationally broadcast statement.
Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, who insists he is still Fiji's legitimate leader, flew Wednesday from the capital to his home village on the remote northeastern Lau group of islands, said Pene Nonu, his private secretary.
Bainimarama on Wednesday dismissed criticism of the coup.
``For those who do not agree with what we are doing, we respect your opinion, but do not interfere with the process that is currently under way,'' he said in an address broadcast nationally. ``There is no point in debating the legality or otherwise of our actions. Qarase and his cronies are not coming back.''
The takeover, like the previous three coups, has its roots in the ethnic divide between the descendants of ancient Melanesian warrior tribes and those of Indian laborers brought by former colonial power Britain to work in sugar plantations.
In his declaration, justified seizing power to prevent legislation that favored indigenous Fijians, contending the measures ``would undermine the constitution and deny many citizens their rights.'' Bainimarama and Qarase are both ethnic Fijians but Bainimarama considers himself as a protector of the rights of all Fijians including ethnic Indians.
Bainimarama said he had assumed some powers of the president and was using them to dismiss the prime minister.
The nation's last coup, in 2000, was led by indigenous nationalists who overthrew the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister. Bainimarama was widely regarded as a national hero after he stepped in, brokered a resolution without bloodshed and restored democracy, hand-picking Qarase, a former banker, to lead an interim government.
He also promised amnesty to coup participants but later reneged, and the ringleaders were arrested, tried and imprisoned for treason.
Bainimarama on Wednesday swore-in Dr. Jona Senilagakali, a military medic with no political experience, as caretaker prime minister and said a full interim government would be appointed next week to see the country through elections that would restore democracy sometime in the future.
Police chief Moses Driver was forced out of his post Wednesday after openly opposing Bainimarama, ordering his officers to disregard any orders from the military, whose actions he said were ``treasonous.''
``The regime that they have put in place is illegal,'' Driver said. ``The Fiji Police will not now, or ever, have any part of it.''
Bainimarama said government members do not ``have the freedom to incite the people to rise against the military'' and warned he would impose curfews and other tough measures if he deemed it necessary. He named a former deputy police chief as Driver's replacement.
Qarase's leadership has gained the legitimacy of two general elections, but Bainimarama grew increasingly frustrated with his nationalist leanings, in particular legislation that offered pardons to the 2000 coup plotters and handed coastal land rights—lucrative to the tourist industry—to indigenous Fijians.
Bainimarama demanded the government kill the legislation or be forced out. Qarase offered to suspend the bills but said he could not agree to demands that went outside the law.
``The government they want to set up will be totally illegal,'' Qarase said Tuesday at his house in Suva, where he said he was under effective house arrest. ....
The United States suspended $2.5 million in assistance to Fiji, most of it for financing of military sales to Fiji and the training of service personnel.
New Zealand said it was suspending defense ties with the country and would ban its military officers from traveling to Fiji. Bainimarama is believed to have children living in New Zealand.
``This is an outrage what is happening in Fiji,'' Prime Minister Helen Clark told reporters Tuesday in Wellington, New Zealand's capital.
Britain also announced it was suspending military aid to Fiji, and Don McKinnon, the secretary-general of 53-member Commonwealth of Britain and its former colonies, said Fiji was likely to be suspended from the group. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan demanded the immediate restoration of the country's elected government.
``It is clear that any coup, any forcible removal from power of a democratically elected government will have consequences for a country and its standing in the international community,'' said U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard revealed that Qarase had asked him early Tuesday to send troops to Fiji to try to stop the coup. Howard refused.
As tensions built in recent weeks, Australia sent three navy ships to waters off Fiji that Australian officials said would be used only to evacuate Australian citizens in the event of a coup.
Last week, Bainimarama accused Australia of planning an invasion, and troops fired mortar flares over the harbor and set up security checkpoints around government buildings in a show of force.
Fiji is among the richest and most developed nations in the South Pacific, attracting up to 400,000 tourists a year to resorts built on idyllic beaches. It also exports sugar and gold.
But it has lurched from one political crisis to the next since the military twice grabbed power in 1987 to ensure political supremacy for the 51 percent majority indigenous Fijians, cutting out the 44 percent ethnic Indian minority.
Bainimarama, an indigenous Fijian, said his actions Tuesday were ``undertaken with a great deal of reluctance.''
``We trust that the new government will lead us into peace and prosperity and mend the ever-widening racial divide that currently besets our multicultural nation,'' he said.
Andrew Hughes, an Australian who had been serving as police chief in Fiji but left a few weeks ago when he became a target of the military's ire, said he believed Bainimarama's coup would fail.
``He doesn't have the support of the government, of the president, of the police, of the churches, of the chiefs, of the people of Fiji,'' Hughes told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television. ``I can foresee a popular uprising.''
Newspaper, radio and television outlets said Tuesday they had been ordered not to show video of Qarase and to allow officers to vet stories. One newspaper decided not to publish rather than submit to censorship.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Global Good News comment:
If a nation's collective consciousness becomes more harmonious and coherent, then the government will mirror that harmony and coherence in its decisions and actions.
To read about the full dignity of Vedic Law and Justice as taught by His Holiness Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, visit:
'The power of law will provide justice only if it upholds the birthright of everyone in freedom, affluence, and the ability to fulfil desires. This can only be achieved if law at every level-national, state, etc., is Vedic Law, which means that it promotes the full blossoming of Cosmic Law in every expression of life.'
Ideal India—the Lighthouse of Peace on Earth (536-page publication)
To read about the full dignity of cultural integrity and harmony among peoples and cultures, visit:
'The time is fast approaching when each nation and culture, on the basis of an invincible national consciousness, will flourish in its uniqueness, while living in harmony with all other nations and cultures.'
Ideal India—the Lighthouse of Peace on Earth (536-page publication)
Translation software is not perfect; however if you would like to try it, you can translate this page using: