How We Present
Troops start disarming police in Fiji
by Ray Lilley
The Associated Press Translate This Article
4 December 2006
SUVA, Fiji (AP) - Soldiers moved against at least two police compounds in Fiji on Monday, seizing weapons in the apparent first step toward taking over the South Pacific island nation.
The military chief who has threatened to overthrow the government, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, said he ordered the move to ensure there would be no violence between the two forces. But Bainimarama refused to say if he had seized control of the country.
Acting Police Commissioner Moses Driver denounced the actions as ``unlawful, unwarranted and unnecessary'' but said there was no violence. He told reporters he had no knowledge of the military moving to replace the government.
``Until now I have not concluded a coup d'etat is in place,'' Driver said. ``This is only the disarming of the police.''
Earlier Monday, Qarase said he was in his office in the capital Suva and the government was still in charge. He said he was willing to hold more talks with Bainimarama and warned a coup would amount to treason.
Troops showed up at the compound of Fiji's only armed police squad, the tactical unit outside Suva. There they removed weapons and ammunition from the compound, loaded them onto trucks and hauled them away, Driver said.
Soldiers also went into an armory at the police academy and removed firearms privately owned by police and weapons used in official ceremonies.
Bainimarama has threatened to topple Qarase at any time, saying the government has failed to meet his demands.
Bainimarama wants the government to kill legislation that would grant pardons to conspirators in a 2000 coup that restored civilian rule and quash two other land rights bills that he says unfairly favor majority indigenous Fijians over the ethnic Indian minority.
Washington has expressed deep concern at Bainimarama's threats and warned U.S. aid to the country could be cut if a coup occurs.
Fiji, a nation of about 900,000 people, was rocked by two military coups in 1987 and the civilian-led coup in 2000.
Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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