16 Jan 2006

Fiji military commander and prime minister meet in Suva

11:11 am on 16 January 2006

Fiji's acting president and commander-in-chief, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, has summoned the prime minister and the military commander to peace talks in Suva this morning to resolve the deteriorating relations between the government and the military.

Ratu Joni had earlier met Laisenia Qarase and Commodore Bainimarama separately twice last week which witnessed a failed attempt by a senior army officer to seize control of the military from the commander.

Today's meeting will the first face to face encounter between Mr Qarase and Commodore Bainimarama who have been heading for a showdown for several years.

Commodore Bainimarama has been critical of some government policies which he has described as racist and of trying to stop coup prosecutions and freeing coup prisoners through the Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

The Fiji Times reports that the acting president made his views on leadership known at a National Youth Peace Camp yesterday when he said the nation must not be influenced by extremists.

Ratu Joni said "at times some of Fiji's leaders send messages that people of one single race are important and only they matter."

Ratu Joni said "this undermines the very fabric of Fiji's society and hurts feelings and creates a feeling of not belonging for some people."

The acting president said he had been reluctant to take up the vice presidency but did so "because it provided a powerful platform to talk on matters that are important for the country."