19 Dec 2002

Fiji military describes attempts to force the commander's removal as treason

11:30 am on 19 December 2002

Fiji's military says any conspiracy to remove their commander, Rear Admiral frank Bainimarama, is treasonous.

The comment follows the arrest of a regular soldier caught circulating a petition in the army camp in Suva seeking the commander's removal.

Army spokesman, Warrant Officer, Neumi Leweni, says attempting to remove the commander is a very serious offence.

He says the military has more information about the conspiracy but would not elaborate.

The petition originated from the Fiji Peacekeepers Association which Rear Admiral Bainimarama has described as an immediate threat to national security.

The association claims their action arises from the commander's refusal to approve a goodwill payment of 115 thousand US dollars to soldiers who have served in Lebanon over the last 24 years.

Its secretary, Taniela Senikuta, says the association is a civilian organisation and there's nothing sinister in circulating the petition.

"The boys are just human, these are frustrating times and I think it just boils down to that...we have been waiting for long, we have freedom of association, freedom of expression, so I think we are just asserting our rights which are in the Fiji Constitution, nothing unusual, nothing sinister."

Taniela Senikuta

Meanwhile, the army is preparing to court martial 66 soldiers who took part in a mutiny at the Labasa barracks on instructions from George Speight's accomplices at the height of the May 2000 coup.

They have been brought to Suva and placed under heavy guard until their court martial begins early next year.