19 Dec 2006

Fiji coup leader snubs chiefs' meeting

4:12 pm on 19 December 2006

Fiji's military coup leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama says he won't attend tomorrow's meeting of the Great Council of Chiefs aimed at finding a way to restore a legal government.

Commodore Bainimarama says he refuses to be there because he had been invited as army commander rather than as interim president.

The Council has the power to appoint the president and vice-president.

Commodore Bainimarama wants the GCC to reappoint Ratu Josefa Iloilo as president so a caretaker government can be named, but the GCC has so far refused to recognise the military regime.

Fiji's deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has called on people to protest in peaceful ways to bring back democracy.

Local media quotes Mr Qarase as saying that only a mass demonstration of the good things people stand for can Fiji rediscover its constitutional basis.

He says he dos not want international sanctions but the military should have thought of that before they acted illegally to overthrow his government.

But an indigenous Fijian Labour Party candidate in the last election,. Maika Moroca, says Mr Qarase must remain on his home island because he is no longer needed on the mainland.

Mr Moroca is an elder of the chiefly household of the jailed Naitasiri paramount chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, who is the patron of Mr Qarase's SDL party.

Mr Moroca has told the Fiji Sun Mr Qarase brought shame to the people of Viti Levu because he almost took the country to bankruptcy and collapse.

Fiji's military says it still has no definite timetable for appointing an interim administration.

The caretaker Prime Minister, Dr Jona Senilagakali, has already said he does not expect to be in the position by the end of the year.

The deadline for applications following an advertisement for jobs in the interim administration passed a week ago.

But the military spokesman, Major Neumi Leweni, says it is important the hundreds of applications are looked at closely:

"We really need to look at the application properly, so there is really not a need to rush the process. We will actually conduct it very carefully so it will probably be just another week or two."

The military spokesman, Major Neumi Leweni.

At least four cabinet ministers in Fiji's deposed Qarase government are reported to have applied for jobs in the military's proposed interim regime.

The military council is planning to directly appoint the interim finance and foreign affairs ministers.