MILITARY BEEFS UP SECURITY AS FIJI COURT MARTIAL RESUMES

SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 7, 2002 - FM96/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's military forces are beefing up security as the court martial of alleged rebel soldiers involved in the deadly November 2000 mutiny continues in Suva this week.

The extra security follows last week's revelations police foiled a plot to abduct the prime minister, military commander, and other government leaders.

Three men have been remanded in custody as investigations continue.

Military legal director Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Aziz said security will be tightened when 15 members of the disbanded Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit reappear in court.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is advising people to stay calm and not to panic.

He said he is confident that the police and the military are working tirelessly to get to all those involved.

Mr. Qarase's call for calm comes amidst media reports claiming that:

§ the alleged plot to free May 2000 coup front man George Speight and key supporters might have been a cover for the elimination of military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama;

§ the plotters planned to free prison inmates as part of efforts to create instability and remove Prime Minister Qarase;

§ a key Speight supporter, initially arrested over the plot but now believed to be a State witness, said the 2000 coup was about the recognition and protection of indigenous Fijian rights and this had been met with an elected Fijian government in power. "There are deeper reasons to this plot than we know," he was quoted as saying of the latest incident.

Speight, backed by rebel indigenous Fijian soldiers from the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit, seized Parliament on May 19, 2000, taking hostage the government of Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Speight and key supporters face a treason trial in the coming months.

Commodore Bainimarama, a navy officer, led the Fiji military forces in restoring law and order.

Mr. Qarase, a merchant banker, first headed an interim administration following the coup crisis.

Mr. Qarase then led his mainly indigenous Fijian Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party to success in elections last September, returning Fiji to democratic government.

For additional reports from theFM96, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Fiji Village News (FM96/Navtarang.VitiFM).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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