Thu, Nov 09, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Fijian military officer renews attack on Qarase

NO MORE 'LIES'Voreqe Bainimarama, a military officer who has threatened to overthrow the present government, said he didn't want the PM to step down

AFP , SUVA

Fiji's rebellious military commander held a news conference to renew his attack on the government yesterday, but stopped short of repeating threats to force the prime minister to resign.

Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, whose threats had sparked fears of a military coup, said: "We [in the military] represent the silent majority of this land and we are tired of getting lied to," Bainimarama said in a news conference.

Asked if he was demanding that the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase step down, Bainimarama said: "What I want is for him to change the direction [in which] we are heading. We don't really want him to resign."

"All he has to do is ... get rid of the corruption and the lies that he and his government are associated with, so we can head towards a better future," Bainimarama said.

Fears that Fiji could see its fourth coup in two decades increased last week after Qarase's administration tried unsuccessfully to replace Bainimarama as the country's top military officer while he was out of the country.

"Let me say that the manner in which the government attempted to remove me as head of the military force continues to show the lack of integrity, moral courage and sound judgment that has been the hallmark of Qarase's leadership in the last six years," he said.

Bainimarama accused Qarase's nationalist indigenous government of spreading lies about a coup in 2000, which ousted the government of the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Bainimarama has made several threats to overthrow Fiji's government because of his discontent with a government proposal to offer amnesty to the plotters of the coup in 2000. He was nearly killed in a military mutiny associated with the coup after he declared martial law and arrested coup leaders.

Qarase has announced that the amnesty plan would be scrapped, a move the military cautiously welcomed.

Bainimarama said he wanted to see the revised legislation with the amnesty provisions removed before giving his response.

He added he was prepared to talk to the government as long as it was prepared to address the military's demands, which include removing all those linked to the 2000 coup from public office.

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