Fiji’s military leader today asked his countrymen to accept that his regime has executive control of the nation, and said there is no going back to the corruption of the past.
Armed forces chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama pledged to set up a tribunal in coming days to probe corruption allegations, and said the timetable to return to civilian rule depends on when the military feels it has weeded out corruption.
“No one will stop the military. The cleanup of corruption continues,” Bainimarama said. “It’s past the point of no return.”
Bainimarama told Radio Viti he will reveal further evidence of corruption within days.
He also warned the Pacific Island nation’s powerful Great Council of Chiefs “not to create trouble or engage people in civil disobedience – because if anything happens, the military will go after them (wrongdoers).”
The warning came as the chiefs wrapped up a three-day meeting to try to find a path back to democratic rule after Fiji’s fourth coup in 20 years.
The chiefs asked Bainimarama to meet with them today to discuss the situation, but he snubbed the offer. The military head said “there is no plan for me to meet them,” adding he was helping serve troops pre-Christmas meals.
The chiefs’ spokeswoman, Adi Litia Qionibaravi, said they reached a consensus on the way back to civilian rule during the meeting, but would not elaborate further because Bainimarama had not been informed. She indicated a meeting with him was possible after the holiday break.
In a draft released yesterday, the chiefs refused to express support for the military takeover, insisting the two men they had appointed as president and vice president remained lawful leaders of Fiji, despite Bainimarama appointing himself president.
They also recognised ousted premier Laisenia Qarase as the lawful prime minister, but noted his government had been “rendered ineffective and incapable” of governing.
A request for Qarase’s formal resignation is a key part of a proposal discussed by the chiefs. Qarase told Fiji’s TV One he would consult with his ousted parliamentary colleagues on the issue.
“If it is in the interests of the nation, I will do it,” he said.
Bainimarama said there would be no more negotiations with Qarase, who “will not come back” to power.
The military chief said telephone links to Qarase’s village of Mavana on Fiji’s Vanuabalavu island would indefinitely remain disconnected.
Qarase was banished there on December 6, a day after the military ousted Fiji’s elected government, but he has refused to step down.
The chief’s resolution “affirms strong support (by the council) for democracy and the rule of law, and its commitment … to a roadmap to take Fiji forward".
The council, which has strong influence among Fiji’s politically dominant indigenous majority, proposed President Ratu Josefa Iloilo would appoint an interim government while military forces would return to their barracks as soon as a government of national unity is in place.
Iloilo would oversee the running of the country and a return to democratic elections within two years.
The plan recommends a 10-member privy council – with politicians and members of the military and chiefs’ council – be appointed to advise the president on forming a government.
Bainimarama also said the armed forces had received a UN “diplomatic note” condemning the military coup – but added it will not withdraw Fijian troops from peacekeeping missions.
Fiji has more than 500 troops on UN peacekeeping duties, with about 200 guarding the UN headquarters in Baghdad.
Earlier reports said the troops would be sent home from peacekeeping posts, a move seen as cutting foreign exchange income that such postings earn Fiji’s economy.
The UN did not immediately confirm Bainimarama’s comments.
The coup has cost Fiji the chairmanship of the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum, with the post going to Papua New Guinea, the forum secretariat said today.