18 Dec 2006

Fiji chiefs to decide on immunity for coup makers

2:54 pm on 18 December 2006

Fiji's Great Council of Chefs will decide this week whether to support moves to approve immunity from prosecution for the military commander and his troops who overthrew the Qarase government two weeks ago.

Radio Legend reports that the chairman of the Great Council, Ratu Ovini Bokini, revealed this in a Fijian language interview today.

Ratu Ovini is quoted as saying while the chiefs uphold the rule of law, they will also have to consider the military's side of the story before they can make the decision.

Ratu Ovini says after the 1987 coups, the chiefs decided to grant immunity to Sitiveni Rabuka while in 2000 they wanted the law to take its course.

He says the decision on whether to support immunity this time around will be made when the chiefs meet in Suva on Wednesday and Thursday.

The Great Council of Chiefs has invited Commodore Frank Bainimarama to its meeting but the commander has made it clear he will only go if he is invited as the acting head of state.

The deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, will not be able to attend because no airline or shipping company is willing to transport him.

Meanwhile, members of the parliament elected in May will receive their severance pay equivalent to one month's salary on Thursday.

The acting secretary general to parliament, Edward Blakelock, says he has received instructions to give the severance pay from the ministry of finance which is acting on guidelines from the military.