13 Jul 2005

Fiji police head says military is not about to topple government over bill

1:08 pm on 13 July 2005

The Fiji Police Commissioner, Andrew Hughes, says he's confident that the military is not about to topple the government over contentious reconciliation legislation.

Mr Hughes, who says he's in regular contact with the military, was commenting as local media reported that the military had considered the option of removing the government if it passes its Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

Issues have arisen because of the bill's amnesty provisions which could see coup convicts walk free and pardons for those involved in political activities such as the 2000 coup.

The Military Commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says the bill is nothing to do with reconciliation and the military is ready to act to prevent instability.

Mr Hughes says differing points of view on the bill seem to be causing an impasse but that does not mean another coup is on the horizon in Fiji.

"What he's saying I think if you actually read carefully what he's saying is that5 he doesn't want to see anything that would jeopardise Fiji going back to those events, and to then say well that means that he would launch some form of executive action I think is a long bow to draw."

Andrew Hughes says Mr Bainimarama is just warning that he will not stand for anybody destabilising Fiji.

Meanwhile, Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has given the first indication that the bill may be amended before it becomes law.

In a four-page advertisement published in Fiji's newspapers today, Mr Qarase says "there will be no interference with the authority and independence of the courts, the director of public prosecutions and the police."

He says "advice is being received from legal experts to ensure that the integrity and independence of these institutions are maintained."

Mr Qarase says "there will be close consultations with the Office of the DPP and the Commissioner of Police that the legislation does not affect the exercise by them of their respective authority under their respective legislation."

The prime minister says the government will make sure that the legislation finally passed meets the requirements of the Constitution and does not compromise the Office of the president.