1 Nov 2006

Fiji government bid to sack military commander fails

7:36 am on 1 November 2006

The Fiji government has failed in its latest attempt to sack the military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, and have him replaced by a subordinate officer.

Fiji's prime minister called on the president and commander-in-chief, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, yesterday and advised him to replace Commodore Bainimarama with another officer, Col Meli Saubulinayau.

Col Saubulinayau was called to the President's Office where he is reported to have declined the appointment and pledged his allegiance and support for Commodore Bainimarama.

The commander of Land Forces, Col Pita Driti, who has more than 6,000 regular and territorial force troops under his command, said Commodore Bainimarama is still the commander and will remain the commander.

Col Driti told the Fijilive news website last night that the acting commander, Navy Captain Esala Teleni, was called to the president's office and told of the government request for him and Commodore Bainimarama to step down.

Col Driti said Col Saubulinayau declined the offer to take over command because he did not have the support of the whole military and had no active troops under his command.

Col Driti said the military is 200% behind Commodore Bainimarama.

Neither Laisenia Qarase nor his chief executive officer, Jioji Kotobalavu, would comment, with Mr Kotobalavu only saying the President's Office would issue a statement.

Last night, the president's official secretary, Rupeni Nacuva, denied that the president had ordered the sacking of Commodore Bainimarama who is currently in Iraq visiting his troops.