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Opponents will be met with force if necessary, Fiji coup leader warns

Opponents will be met with force if necessary, Fiji coup leader warns

Fiji's military regime banished ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase from the capital on Monday, and warned that open opposition to the takeover would be met with force as it continued to round up dissenters and give them warnings.
Armed forces chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama said a security lockdown of the capital, Suva, would be extended because comments by Qarase and others that he said could incite violence.
Qarase said over the weekend he planned to return to Suva from the outlying island where he fled last Wednesday, the day after being deposed by Bainimarama in a bloodless takeover. Qarase has urged peaceful resistance to the coup, but warned that the takeover was divisive.
Bainimarama said such comments "could incite people, and their actions could very easily turn into a situation where the military will have to confront them with force."
Qarase's claims to want to return to power indicated he and his supporters are willing to use violence, Bainimarama told reporters Monday.
Those speaking out against the military _ many of whom have claimed in recent days to have been picked up by soldiers and taken to Suva's main military barracks and interrogated _ "are being told in no uncertain terms the consequences of their actions," Bainimarama said.
Military spokesman Maj. Neumi Leweni said Qarase had been told to stay away from Suva, and that if he returned he would be arrested and sent to a prison island where plotters in a 2000 coup are locked up.
Bainimarama also accused Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer _ a leading foreign critic of the takeover _ of inviting people "to try and destabilize the current peace that prevails" by urging passive resistance.
The coup _ Fiji's fourth in less than 20 years _ was the culmination of a long impasse between Bainimarama and Qarase over bills offering pardons to conspirators in a 2000 coup and handing lucrative coastal land ownership to indigenous Fijians. Bainimarama says the bills are racist.
Bainimarama last Tuesday announced he had assumed presidential powers and dismissed the government. He declared a state of emergency, dissolved Parliament, and threw up a security cordon around Suva.
Fiji's powerful council of tribal chiefs said it would meet next week to discuss the coup, after earlier denouncing Bainimarama as disrespectful for seizing the powers of President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.
Bainimarama wants the Great Council of Chiefs to reappoint Iloilo and for the president to swear in his interim government _ moves that would give his coup endorsement of the chiefs, who are hugely influential among the indigenous Fijian majority.
Council chairman Ovini Bokini said the chiefs would meet on Thursday and Friday next week.
Bainimarama said the military had received more than 300 applications for jobs in his interim government from advertisements placed in weekend newspapers. His military council was now sifting through the hopefuls' qualifications.
Meanwhile, former Fiji prime minister and two-time coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka was found innocent Monday of inciting a 2000 military mutiny linked to that years' coup that aimed to kill Bainimarama, and left eight soldiers dead.
The troops who mutinied in November 2000 were angry at Bainimarama for overturning a coup led by civilian nationalist George Speight. Speight is serving a life sentence for treason on the prison island.
Bainimarama was widely credited with ending the coup without bloodshed by declaring martial law and installing Laisenia Qarase as interim prime minister. Qarase later won two national elections before being ousted by Bainimarama last Tuesday.


Updated : 2021-10-17 09:06 GMT+08:00