Thu, Dec 14, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Traditional Fijian warriors threaten to kill coup leader


Fijian military commander Frank Bainimarama, left, chats with his prime minister appointee Major Jona Senilagakali in the officer's mess at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in the Fijian capital Suva on Wednesday.


A group claiming to be traditional Fijian warriors has threatened to kill Voreqe Bainimarama, the coup leader, if democracy is not restored by Christmas Day, a Fijian newspaper reported yesterday.

The Fiji Sun said they had also threatened to burn the homes of soldiers loyal to the self-appointed president who overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase a week ago.

The newspaper said the military, which has warned it will not tolerate any dissent or resistance, was taking the threat seriously and was ready for a showdown.

"We are working on the threat," said land force commander Colonel Pita Driti.

"We had been preparing to counter any sort of foreign intervention and when there was none, the boys got bored," Driti said.

"If these traditional warriors decide to take us on, we are ready for any sort of action. And they should come out prepared instead of hiding and playing mind games," he said.

The dissidents, said to consist of traditional warriors from Fiji's 14 provinces, called on Bainimarama "to withdraw and return everything to its former state by December 25."

It did not directly quote them threatening to kill Bainamarama.

But Driti said the military was united in its support for Bainimarama and ensuring the success of their "clean-up" campaign.

Bainimarama had accused Qarase's government of widespread corruption and racism in favoring the indigenous majority over ethnic Indians who were the target of three earlier coups.

Fiji's Ba province, meanwhile, was said to be behind plans to set up a de facto government under Qarase, although the former prime minister has distanced himself from the plan.

"Some provincial councilors suggested that Ba should offer ousted prime minister Laisenia Qarase the opportunity to establish his government on its soil," a councilor, who asked not be identified, told reporters.

Ba, in the west of Fiji, encompasses four of the Pacific island nation's nine towns, one of its two cities and is home to many tourist resorts, the country's sole gold mine and three of Fiji's four sugar mills.

Bainimarama said on Tuesday he was aware of plans for a rival government and warned its proponents to drop the idea or face the full force of the military.

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