QARASE MULLS DISCIPLINE FOR FIJI MILITARY CHIEF

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 21) – Fiji's Prime Minister has hinted of disciplinary measures against the military commander [Commodore Frank Bainimarama] if the Supreme Court accepts the State's interpretation of the Constitution that deals with the role of the military.

While he could not say what the disciplinary measures would entail, Qarase said the issue was being looked into.

"If that interpretation coincides with the legal opinion obtained so far then, of course, the army commander has done a lot of things illegally according to that particular provision of the Constitution."

Relations between the SDL leader and Commodore Bainimarama deteriorated after the 2004 introduction of the Truth and Reconciliation Bill that amongst many of its provisions promised pardons for the coup convicts.

Qarase claimed in the Fiji TV Close Up programme that 90 per cent of Fiji's military support the Government while it's at loggerheads with military chief Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

He said differences between the army and the Government were limited to "the differences between the army commander himself and the Government."

"I have no doubt in my mind that 90 per cent of the military personal support the government of the day. Totally," he said.

Qarase said this was the soldier's professional duty because they are "sworn to do that".

He even went further to claim that in the general election, "90 per cent of them voted for the SDL (Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua) government".

On the Reconciliation Bill, Qarase said he planned to bring an amended version back early in his first term to test the multi-party Cabinet arrangement between SDL and the Fiji Labour Party.

A backlash from the various civic and religious societies, non governmental organisations, political parties and the military coupled with the impeding elections shelved the Bill.

Qarase also admitted that the pardon provisions of the Bill did not impede the work of the judiciary, the Director of Public Prosecution's Office or the police, contrary to the concerns of the military that launched a public campaign against the SDL-led Government.

He said the Bill was a way forward for the country and it would bring closure of the victims and perpetrators alike.

Bainimarama had famously warned that should the Bill be passes, the law would "release terrorists into society" and "turn lies into truth".

May 22, 2006

Fijilive: www.fijilive.com

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