6 Dec 2006

Fiji's prime minister returns to home island - refusing to bow to military pressure

12:04 pm on 6 December 2006

Fiji's overthrown prime minister Laisenia Qarase has left Suva and returned to his home island.

A prime minister's office spokesman confirmed that Mr Qarase and his wife Leba had flown out aboard a charter flight early this morning to Mavana in the remote Lau island group in Fiji's north-east.

Mr Qarase is from the Lau group.

The prime minister had been under house arrest since the military seized power yesterday in Fiji's fourth coup 19 years.

He had refused a request from the military that he vacate the residence.

Last night, about 200 supporters were allowed into the prime minister's house where he spoke to reporters, condemning Commodore Frank Bainimarama's coup.

However, the military prevented Fiji media from reporting Mr Qarase's Fiji's remarks and several outlets refused to publish or broadcast because of the censorship.

Mr Qarase had said that the government the military want to set up will be totally illegal.

He said that the military commander had raped the constitution.

Commodore Bainimarama is scheduled to meet chief executive officers of government ministries later today to give instructions.

The military chief said yesterday executives would be asked to run the ministries until an interim government was appointed.