By Sanjay Ramesh, Ph.D.

SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 3, 2002)---Four men were arrested and charged with conspiracy to abduct Prime Minister Laisania Qarase, Attorney General Qoriniasi Bale and Fiji Military Forces Commander Frank Bainimarama on Thursday.

Former politician Varinava Tiko, military officer Jo Waqabaca, Anare Waqavonovono and Joeli Vesikula were planning to instigate unrest in certain parts of Fiji.

Varinava Tiko is know for his militant activities after he led the takeover of Korovou town during the height of the political crisis in 2000.

The motives of the men remain unclear but it is believed that the group wanted to see an immediate release of May 19, 2000 coup leader George Speight and his team, who are incarcerated on the island of Nukulau.

One of the Coalition partners in the Qarase Government -- Matanitu Vanua (MV) -- wanted the group on Nukulau to be pardoned and a petition to that effect was circulated in the House of Representatives recently.

The arrest of the four, two of whom are from George Speight's home province of Tailevu, come amidst rumors of another armed takeover.

The biggest threat is the division within the army caused by a dispute over F$ 400 million (US$ 172.6 million) claimed to be due to some 4,000 ex- UN peacekeepers.

Also recently, the Military Forces’ Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit (CRWU), which was involved in the May 19, 2000 insurrection and the November 2, 2000 military mutiny, was disbanded. Following this announcement, the Commander Bainimarama argued for another crack counter-terrorism team to be established, led by soldiers loyal to the state.

Some observers believe that following the handing over of security operations from the Fiji Military Forces to the Fiji Police in December, extremist elements within the indigenous Fijian community may have found the necessary breathing space to proceed with the "unfinished business" of May 19.

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