10 May 2004

Fiji police not investigating allegations involving army commander

3:50 pm on 10 May 2004

Fiji's police commissioner says they are not investigating allegations that the army commander planned to overthrow the government last December.

Andrew Hughes says he hasn't received a formal complaint from any of the three suspended army officers who have gone public with the accusations.

They contend that the commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, asked officers to draw up plans for a military takeover because his re-appointment looked unlikely.

Mr Hughes says given the gravity of the allegations, he would have expected a complaint sent to him personally but the police haven't' received anything.

"The person concerned has elected to go to the media direct with their complaint and that's rather extraordinary given the nature of the allegations. There are appropriate mechanisms that he could have used, employed to have his complaint properly looked into. But, at the moment, it's in the hands of the media, we've received nothing so there's no comment that I can make."

Fiji's police commissioner, Andrew Hughes.

The military is still refusing to comment on the statement and will not do so until Mr Bainimarama returns from overseas at the end of the week.

It's understood that the Home Affairs minister will seek a meeting then to discuss the allegations.

The Fiji Labour Party is calling for the removal of all parliamentarians implicated in the coup to achieve economic progress and restore investor confidence.

There have also been reports that members of the pro-coup Conservative Alliance party in the governing coalition sought to have Commodore Bainimarama removed this year by inciting a mutiny.

Labour's assistant general secretary, Lekh Ram Veyashnoi, says the shortage of skilled workers in Fiji began after May 2000 and Mr Qarase's plans to bring in skills from overseas will never work unless he addresses the events of the coup.

Mr Veyashnoi says following the coup, the SDL government appeared to condone the illegal takeover by sending those implicated into the House of Representatives and the Senate, resulting in the loss of investor confidence.

Meanwhile, Australia will send a senior Queen's Counsel to prosecute Fiji's vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, on serious coup related charges next month.

Ratu Jone, the deputy speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, and the sports minister, Isireli Leweniqila, have been charged with taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence and another of engaging in a seditious enterprise.

Ratu Jope purported to become the president and the other two ministers in George Speight's failed administration right after the May 2000 coup.

The director of public prosecutions in New South Wales, Nick Cowdery, says the most senior prosecutor in the state, Mark Tedeschi, QC, is being sent to prosecute the Fiji vice president free of charge.