26 Jan 2004

Media speculation in Fiji that military commander to be retained

3:43 pm on 26 January 2004

There are media reports in Fiji that the government may consider extending the contract of the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

This follows a standoff between the army commander and the home affairs ministry after he insisted he wanted to remain in his post until all those involved in the coup were prosecuted.

Mr Bainimarama's contract ends in March and there have been signals it won't be renewed.

A prominent lawyer, Richard Naidu, says it is possible that the government is reconsidering its stance although it won't be bowing to the military or the public.

"The current suggest moves to retain him are as part of a behind the scenes process rather than any yielding to public pressure or public comment. I think perhaps there's simply a preference to avoid controversy. I don't think they could criticise him for having done a bad job so it's very hard to see why in the circumstances he shouldn't be re-appointed."

Richard Naidu says it would be reassuring for the public if the commander's contract was renewed because it would show that the government was committed to prosecuting those involved in the coup.