FIJI MILITARY QUESTIONS APPOINTMENT OF ‘COUP PERPETRATOR’

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By Samantha Rina

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Aug. 30) - The Fiji military is baffled at the recent appointment of what it calls a coup perpetrator as a diplomat.

It expressed reservation at the appointment of Ratu Epeli Kanaimawi, as Fiji’s high commissioner to Malaysia claiming that his involvement in the 2000 political crisis was common knowledge.

[PIR editor’s note: See PIR archive story for background.]

"As the chairman of the Assembly of Christian Churches, he asked the army commander not to pursue charges against personnel involved in the 2000 crisis," army spokesman Major Neumi Leweni said yesterday. "Furthermore, he was one of the four people that lobbied the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, not to appoint Laisenia Qarase as the interim Prime Minister because they wanted Adi Samanunu (Cakobau) instead to lead the caretaker government."

Because of his involvement in the 2000 coup, Leweni said, the military could not comprehend the reasons behind Epeli’s appointment.

"However it’s the government’s choice and they should be able to tell the public their reasons for appointing such people," he said.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase did not wish to comment yesterday saying only that if there were allegations against Epeli, they should be referred to the police.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Kaliopate Tavola and his chief executive officer Isikeli Mataitoga could not be reached for comments after their mobile phones were switched off.

Converted coup convict Maciu Navakasuasua had identified Epeli as one of the church leaders that had rendered their support to those involved in the illegal takeover of 2000.

Epeli, he said, had also been considered by the George Speight civilian government as a possible candidate for the Prime Minister’s position in 2000.

Navakasuasua named Epeli, Pastor Poate Mata and then Methodist church president Reverend Tomasi Kanailagi as strong supporters of the illegal act.

Ratu Epeli had earlier told the Fiji Sun on Sunday night that he would comment on the issue once he received a final confirmation from Government concerning his posting.

August 31, 2006

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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