19 Dec 2003

Fiji military warns politicians not to interfere in army affairs

4:56 pm on 19 December 2003

Fiji's military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has defended media scrutiny of political interference with his tenure in office.

The Fiji Times quotes Commodore Bainimarama as saying that the media is playing its part in informing the public of problems which the government is trying to cover up.

His comments follow a statement by the information minister, Simione Kaitani, that sections of the media are mischievous and irresponsible in airing the issue in public.

Commodore Bainimarama says the media has an important role to play in highlighting problems in the government which it is trying to bury without letting people have their say.

Earlier the military has issued an unprecedented public warning to the country's coup tainted politicians that it would not allow itself to be threatened by them.

In a statement, the military said it was common knowledge that threats to remove the Commodore as commander were emanating from supporters of George Speight who are now in leadership positions.

It said the same people had tried to use President Iloilo earlier this year to reduce the sentences passed on the perpetrators of the 2000 coup and mutiny, nearly causing a constitutional crisis in the process.

The military said these people would lose terribly, just as Speight and his group had.

Meanwhile, Fiji's Citizens Constitutional Forum has joined political leaders and parties in wanting the army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, retained in his post when his contract expires in March next year.

The Forum's executive director, the Rev Akuila Yabaki, says Commodore Bainimarama should remain in office so he can bring to justice those involved in May 2000 coup and the army mutiny in November.