FIJI LAWMAKER UNDER PROBE IN ASSASSINATION PLOT

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Jan. 5) - Fiji's military forces are investigating a Member of Parliament for allegedly speaking of a plan to assassinate the army commander, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

Bainimarama told The Review, a monthly sister publication of Fijilive, that the unidentified MP was overheard discussing an assassination attempt while at a kava-drinking session.

"At this stage we're following an allegation that an MP had proposed an assassination attempt on my life," Bainimarama told The Review.

Bainimarama has clarified to Fijilive his officers are investigating the MP and will pass the file on to police if anything substantial comes out of it.

But he said whether the alleged plan was serious or just an off-handed comment the military will take it seriously.

"I don't think for a moment they know what they are up against. They have no idea!" he said.

Bainimarama, 50, and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) have been at odds with the government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase almost since Qarase was installed as interim prime minister by the commander himself during the 2000 coup crisis.

The government interprets Bainimarama's outspokenness in the media as meddling in their running of the country.

But the commander believes they are allowing people tainted by coup allegations to get away with it, even getting plush government and diplomatic postings. This in turn, he argues, is creating a "criminal generation" of people with no respect for the rule of law.

Bainimarama said those who have an agenda against the military do not know what they're up against in trying to let coup perpetrators off.

"It's like a tiger sitting in the corner. You have to give him room. If you don't give him room, he's going to bite you; he's going to come at you."

He says similar pressure is on the military now as there was during the days following the George Speight-led coup attempt and the army needed to ensure there was no return to those traumatic days.

Bainimarama is keen for the military not to be seen as condoning coup perpetrators - a point he continuously emphasizes - hence his unwavering attempts to get them out of the government, public offices and villages and into court.

But Attorney-General Qoroniasi Bale, in a written response to questions, said there has been a "fair amount of unwarranted encouragement from some intermediaries" motivated by a "clear wish for revenge against those implicated" in the coup.

"This is inconsistent with the government's determination to promote genuine reconciliation, greater tolerance and unity amongst all races, religions, cultures etc. in Fiji without undermining the legal process," said Bale.

These views were echoed by the chief executive officer in the Prime Minister's office; Jioji Kotobalavu said it was not up to the commander how investigations should proceed.

"The police and the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions are in full charge of the investigations into all those allegedly involved in the events of 2000," said Kotobalavu.

"We should all leave it to them and cooperate with them. The legal process must be allowed to take its full course, in accordance with the relevant laws of Fiji and without interference by anyone."

On May 19, 2000, George Speight, now jailed for treason on an island prison, led a rebel band of elite Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) soldiers, seizing the first ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his government.

The takeover led to a 56-day hostage crisis and left several people dead.

Later that year, on November 2, rebel soldiers staged a mutiny attempt at Suva's Queen Elizabeth Barracks and tried to assassinate Bainimarama. Loyalist soldiers put down the uprising in a bloody battle that left three of them and five rebels dead.

Full interview on Fijilive Archives

January 6, 2005

Fijilive: www.fijilive.com 

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