FIJI ARMY CHIEF CHASTISED FOR PUBLIC COMMENTS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, April 19) – Fiji Army chief Voreqe Bainimarama will be disciplined if he makes another public outburst in the media, says Home Affairs Minister Josefa Vosanibola.

[The warning comes after Bainimarama reportedly said he was "frustrated, disturbed and disappointed" over the release of former lands minister Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and Senator Ratu Josefa Dimuri from jail 10 days after being sent there on coup-related charges.]

Vosanibola said if Commodore Bainimarama continues to make public announcements in regard to issues affecting national security, he had no choice but to take appropriate action against him.

Mr Vosanibola said he would take his time in deciding the action to take because the stability of the nation depended on his successfully applying the course of action.

Mr Vosanibola summoned Commodore Bainimarama to appear before him yesterday afternoon to express his concerns on the statements he made in the media regarding the release of Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and Ratu Josefa Dimuri.

Mr Vosanibola said during his discussion with Commodore Bainimarama, he told him to stop making public statements without consulting him.

He was disappointed with the way Commodore Bainimarama was handling situations.

"But he had accepted what I told him," he said. "I have asked the Commander that he should not make any public announcements in regard to issues of or affecting national security, public safety and public order without prior express consultation with myself."

Mr Vosanibola said many had questioned his relationship with the Commander.

"The making of these inquiries is very understandable because the role which the commander plays in the life of the nation and the perception of instability arising from any breakdown of communication between the commander and the Government," he said.

Mr Vosanibola said his position was very critical because it was clearly stated in the Constitution that the Commander was under the Minister's control.

"I am currently and most urgently applying the appropriate course of action to allay the concerns expressed regarding our relationship, taking into account the provisions of law, which I must consider and above all the national interest. This process, while obviously vital and urgent cannot be rushed or hurried," he said.

"Concerned citizens should be rest assured that the course of action being followed by me is compatible with relevant provisions of the law and taking into account national interest."

April 19, 2005

Fiji Times Online: http://www.fijitimes.com.

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