18 Dec 2002

Fiji army confronts more threats against its commander

6:07 pm on 18 December 2002

Fiji's army media spokesman has rejected earlier reports that the army has gone on high alert but confirms a soldier has been arrested for circulating a petition calling for the commander's removal.

Warrant Officer Neumi Leweni also says police raided the offices of the Fiji PeaceKeepers Association.

Its secretary, Taniela Senikuta, says they were searching for the names of other regular soldiers who had signed the document.

Mr Senikuta says they're calling for Rear Admiral Bainimarama to go, in part because the military turned down their request for a goodwill payment for soldiers involved in peacekeeping.

"The boys are just human, these are frustrating times and I think it just boils down to that...we have been waiting for long, we have freedom of association, freedom of expression, so I think we are just asserting our rights which are in the Fiji Constitution, nothing unusual, nothing sinister."

Rear Admiral Bainimarama says the Fiji Peacekeeping Association is colluding with serving senior military officers who were involved in the coup and the mutiny in 2000.

Mr Senikuta denies this but says that soldiers are entitled to have an opinion.