Mon, Dec 11, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Coup critics risk being interrogated

FIJI FUSS The military leadership faces growing crititicism at home and and now they have cost the country the World Netball Championships


Fiji's military warned its critics yesterday that anyone who spoke out against the nation's new army leadership would be hauled off for interrogation.

The blunt warning came as dissenters within the Pacific nation joined the international community in vowing to shun military commander Voreqe Bainimarama's regime five days after he seized power in a coup.

The Commonwealth said on Friday that it was suspending Fiji and the International Federation of Netball Associations said it was withdrawing next year's world championships from the country.

"There is a danger there that what has been a bloodless coup to date could turn into a confrontation as the commander tries to get people to do what he wants done," warned Sinclair Dinnen of the Australian National University.

After firing nine of the country's top government police officers and administrators, the military warned that anyone who spoke out against the regime would be questioned at armed forces headquarters on the edge of Suva.

"The military has expressed views and we've made it known that we really want this transition period to be smooth," the military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said on commercial radio.

"When we hear or it's reported that some individual is attempting to make some statement that we see as inciting or could create problems, we will call the individuals in and speak to them," Leweni said.

"We will inform them of our stance and for them to refrain from making such statements," he said.

He said that those who did not go voluntarily would be "persuaded by other means," the report said.

Former officials and ministers of ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's government have been taken to the barracks.

There has been dissent from some top administrators as well as churches and the highly-influential Great Council of Chiefs.

Fiji's central bank has tightened controls and introduced credit limits, and more alarmingly, tourism is taking a battering as travelers cancel holidays, with some airlines and hotels reporting up to 50 percent cancelations.

There have been no large protests yet, although men in plain clothes early yesterday tore down banners calling for peace and a restoration of democracy from a building on the main road out of the city towards the west.

Windows were also broken in the building, but Leweni denied there was any military involvement in the raid on the protest organized by the Young People Concerned Network.

A question mark still hung over the military's plans to form a caretaker government after Bainimarama advertised in newspapers on Saturday, asking for applications for posts in the Cabinet.

The military had also hoped the chiefs's council -- made up of indigenous leaders -- would meet this coming week to reappoint Ratu Josefa Iloilo as president. The meeting has been postponed but both the council and the military said yesterday they were prepared to meet to find a way forward.

Another blow to Fiji's standing came with the decision of the International Federation of Netball Associations to remove it as host of next year's world championships due to security concerns.

"It is deeply regretted that we have had to take this decision, recognizing the hard work that has been done by the organizing committee," said Molly Rhone, the association's president.

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