Fiji's prime minister appeared to bow to threats from the military when he said yesterday that a key amnesty provision had been cut from proposed legislation amid a standoff which has raised fears of a coup.
Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said the bill had been changed to remove amnesties for plotters involved in a 2000 coup, a key demand of Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who threatened to force the government out if it kept the clause.
"I want to say that quite categorically now that there is no longer an amnesty provision in the new bill. It is a changed bill, substantially changed," he told reporters in the capital.
The bill containing the amnesty provision was one of two pieces of legislation that Bainimarama had warned Qarase three weeks ago to drop or be removed from office.
The concession came as Bainimarama returned to Fiji from a visit to the country's troops in the Middle East.
His arrival had been seen as another potential flash point in the dispute between the military and government.
It also came a day after acting military chief Captain Esala Telani met with Qarase for talks on the crisis, opening direct communications between the two sides and promising the armed forces had no plans for a coup.
The standoff had raised fears of a fourth coup in the South Pacific nation since 1987, although both Qarase and the military have played down the risk of more upheaval.
Qarase denied he had dropped the amnesty clause to appease the military, saying it had been cut because of constitutional concerns.
Police, who are investigating whether Bainimarama's threat to remove Qarase was seditious, have said they want to talk to the commander but did not plan to detain him immediately.
Bainimarama, who will meet senior officers today, was taken out a back gate surrounded by armed troops after arriving in the western city of Nadi and was driven to Suva.
"We saw fit to go out there and protect the commander," military spokesman Major Nuemi Leweni said.
Qarase said he hoped to have talks with Bainimarama early this week before a meeting of the Great Council of Chiefs.
The council, representing Fiji's 14 provinces run by chiefs, groups the nation's ultimate powerbrokers who have been called to find a solution to the crisis.
The standoff between Qarase and Bainimarama, who installed Qarase as interim leader in the middle of the 2000 coup, has rattled Fiji and alarmed neighbors Australia and New Zealand, as well as the US and Britain.
Bainimarama accuses Qarase's government, re-elected in May for a second five-year term, of being too soft on those behind the 2000 coup.
Trouble still looms over the second piece of legislation, the "Qoliqoli Bill" that would enshrine indigenous ownership of coastal land that is currently owned by the government.
Bainimarama fears the bill will increase uncertainty over the leases on coastal land often taken up by resorts and hotels, thereby potentially damaging the economy.
An Australian university student who has never visited China and has only a modest social media following would seem an unlikely target for the Chinese government. However, when a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman personally denounced Drew Pavlou at a news conference, it was just the next phase in an extraordinary campaign against the 21-year-old that has fueled concerns over China’s targeting of critics overseas. Pavlou first placed himself in the superpower’s sights when in July last year he organized a small sit-in at the University of Queensland, where he studies, to protest against various Chinese government policies. Since then, the Global
‘ASKED TO MOVE OUT’: Indonesian coast guard personnel argued with a Chinese vessel over territorial claims after it entered the country’s exclusive economic zone An Indonesian patrol ship confronted a Chinese coast guard vessel that spent almost three days in waters where Indonesia claims economic rights and that are near the southernmost part of China’s disputed claims to the South China Sea. The Indonesian Maritime Security Agency on Friday night detected Chinese ship 5204 entering Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in what Indonesia calls the North Natuna Sea. The agency sent a patrol ship that closed within 1km of the Chinese coast guard vessel and they communicated to affirm their position and their nation’s claims to the area, Indonesian Maritime Security Agency head Aan Kurnia said. “We
BEFORE WINTER COMES: Snow cuts off roads into Ladakh for four months or more each year, so the crunch is on to get food, tents and high-altitude equipment to Leh From deploying mules to large transport aircraft, the Indian military has activated its entire logistics network to transport supplies to thousands of troops for a harsh winter along a bitterly disputed Himalayan border with China. In the past few months, one of India’s biggest military logistics exercises in years has brought vast quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food into Ladakh, a region bordering Tibet that India administers as a union territory, officials said. The move was triggered by a border standoff with China in the snow deserts of Ladakh that began in May and escalated in June into hand-to-hand
Since her personal telephone number was posted online, Hong Kong democracy advocate and Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions chairperson Carol Ng has received menacing calls from strangers and been bombarded with messages calling her a “cockroach.” She is not alone. A sophisticated and shady Web site called HK Leaks has ramped up its “doxxing” — where people’s personal details are published online — of Hong Kong democracy advocates, targeting those it says have broken Hong Kong’s National Security Law. Promoted by groups linked to the Chinese Chinese Communist Party and hosted on Russia-based servers, HK Leaks has become the most prominent “doxxing”