23 Apr 2003

Fiji military chief confirms attempts to reduce sentences

10:56 am on 23 April 2003

Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has confirmed that outside attempts were made to reduce the prison sentences of soldiers found guilty of mutiny during the coup three years ago.

Seventy soldiers are serving terms ranging from life to two years for their role in the Labasa and Suva mutinies which followed the coup while the court martial of another group is still under way.

Commodore Bainimarama has told Radio Fiji the reduction of sentences came up in his talks with President Iloilo, who is commander-in-chief of the military.

But he says the president dropped the issue following the military's objections.

Commodore Bainimarama denied that any formal directive to reduce the sentences was issued as reported by the media.

The reports quoted certain politicians who accused Commodore Bainimarama of insubordination for not wanting to follow the president's orders.

The Commodore says the military is concerned with the type of advice being given to the country's leaders and if any decisions concerning national security are made, the army should be allowed to give its views.

He has accused two permanent secretaries of trying to prevent the military from giving its advice on issues being considered by the government.

Commodore Bainmarama has reiterated that the miltary's role is to protect the constitution and have the final say on law and order in the country.