4 Dec 2006

Fiji military commander says guns removed to ensure they posed no threat to his soldiers

9:43 pm on 4 December 2006

There was a flurry of activity around Suva on Monday with signs that the Fiji military is working to take control of the capital.

The movement of the prime minister Laisenia Qarase has been hampered, with reports he was stopped from meeting with President Josefa Iloilo, and had to enter Suva by helicopter to avoid a military roadblock.

He now appears to be confined to his residence.

There are now a number of check points set up around the city.

Earlier the soldiers removed guns from the armoury at the Suva headquarters of the police tactical response unit and entered another police armoury.

Mr Qarase has condemned the military's seizure of the weapons but he said on Monday afternoon that his government remained in control.

The premier said the maverick military commander Frank Bainimarama had broken the law by removing weapons.

The acting police commissioner Moses Driver also condemned the military's action.

But the military commander says the guns were taken to ensure they would not fall into the hands of dissidents.

He told journalists that the way it was done was because of a misunderstanding between the military and the police.

"In addition we intend to disarm body guards attached to the government ministers and the prime minister. The securing of PTR [police tactical response unit] weapons was done to ensure the safety of PTR personnel and that we would not want to present an opportunity where the police weapons would be used against the military. Having said that the RFMF is very much aware of the important role of the police in situations such as the current security situation in Fiji. The RFMF and the police will work together to ensure the security and the safety of all the people of Fiji."