Fiji’s military ruler declared a state of emergency today, one day after seizing power, the country’s media has reported.
Police, ousted politicians and senior bureaucrats have defied Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s coup with passive resistance, and international sanctions have begun isolating the South Pacific country.
Bainimarama ordered that a security cordon be set up around the capital, Suva, checkpoints established at strategic points around the city, and said all military reserves will be “marched” into military camps to support the state of emergency, the Legend radio network reported.
The declaration came after troops held meetings with acting police chief Moses Driver, who had earlier issued a statement denouncing the military takeover and instructing his officers not to comply with any orders given by the military regime.
Mr Driver was taken to the main military barracks in Suva under duress, after troops came to police headquarters and demanded he accompany them, a police spokeswoman said.
Troops also entered and broke up a meeting of senior government bureaucrats who had convened to discuss yesterday’s takeover. Prime minister Laisenia Qarase’s permanent secretary Jioji Kotobalavu was taken away by soldiers who said he was wanted for discussions at the military base.
Soldiers also broke up a session of the country’s senate, which had convened this morning and resumed its scheduled budget deliberations. Troops entered the chamber and ordered lawmakers to end their session, which they did peacefully, said clerk of parliament Mary Chapman.
Mr Qarase flew out of Suva today at the request of the military, returning to his home village on an outlying island.
Mr Qarase insists he is still Fiji’s legitimate leader, and late last night urged Fijians to peacefully oppose the armed forces.
“What the military commander has done has raped our constitution and we are becoming a laughing stock around the world,” Mr Qarase told reporters.
Suva was generally quiet this morning, with most businesses open but only light traffic and fewer than normal people on the streets.
Criticism of the military was subdued after censors were sent to newspapers, radio and television stations. One mainstream daily, the Fiji Times, decided not to publish yesterday rather than submit to censorship, though it said it would resume printing this afternoon after the military said it would not interfere.
International condemnation of Bainimarama’s takeover has flowed in.
Washington suspended aid to Fiji used mostly for military sales and training and condemned the military’s action, saying the US Government believes Mr Qarase’s government could be reinstated because the situation is unsettled.
Australia joined New Zealand in suspending military ties with Fiji and slapping travel bans on armed forces officers and anyone who joins the planned interim administration. Foreign minister Alexander Downer said further sanctions could follow.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan strongly deplored the coup and demanded the elected government be immediately restored to power, AP