5 May 2006

Fiji's military commander advises soldiers on voting

10:25 am on 5 May 2006

Fiji's military commander has advised his soldiers not to vote for any party which reduces the strength of the army.

Fiji TV reports that Commodore Bainimarama has based his advice on the understanding that the SDL government will reduce troop numbers following the recommendations of a Defence White Paper which will go before the cabinet after the elections.

The military has over 3,000 regular soldiers and nearly 7,000 territorial troops, almost all of whom are of voting age.

Commodore Bainimarama says the military family will ensure that their numbers are not reduced and they will not vote for a political party that will kick them out of a job.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has said the report on the Defence White Paper was deliberate misinformation and could be part of a politically inspired campaign to influence voters on the eve of the general elections which start tomorrow.

The latest development is expected to further strain relations between the military and the SDL government.