BAINIMARAMA APPOINTS HIMSELF ACTING PRESIDENT

By Samantha Rina

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Dec. 6) – Fiji Army Commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama yesterday took executive control of the country, saying he would act as President until an interim administration is appointed.

The commander said the Republic of Fiji Military Forces had no choice but to take control because "the Government and all those empowered to make decisions in constitutional democracy are unable to make decisions to save people from destruction".

He also announced the appointment of former Fiji Medical Association president Dr Jona Senilagakali as replacement of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, who was under house arrest with some of his Cabinet ministers at his Richards Road residence last night. Commdore Bainimarama said the army would not impose a curfew.

"As of now, the military and the police are working together to ensure that the situation remains calm and that people do not take advantage of the current situation and break the law," Commodore Bainimarama said. Security forces, he said, would also conduct joint patrols and the public should expect to see more soldiers than usual with police officers on patrol.

"Please do not be intimidated or scared, they are there to ensure that people do not break the law and hence ensure everybody's security," he said. The two forces, he said, were presently in the process of setting up a Joint Operation Command Center of which the telephone numbers will soon be made available to the public.

He also urged citizens to resume their daily lives normally. "We ask the people to cooperate and bear with the inconvenience. We will work towards putting in place a government that stands for all citizens of this country. Our priorities for the time being are to ensure your security, safety and the nation's well-being," he said.

"I urge the people of Fiji to continue with their normal daily lives. All those that have employment should continue to go to work. I urge businesses to remain open. We will ensure that development plans and programs at all levels continue to be implemented."

Late last night, Acting Police Commissioner Moses Driver issued a directive to all officers of the Police Force not to follow any instructions from anyone except him. "Any instruction issued by military personnel is to be disregarded and I remind every officer of the Fiji Police Force of his or her oath to uphold the law and to guard the Constitution of Fiji," he said.

Mr Driver also advised members of the RFMF who had decided to participate in the illegal takeover to make another choice and put down their weapons and return to their families. As Commodore Bainimarama addressed the nation, Dr Senilagakali stood motionless beside him. "Having stepped into the shoes of the President, I shall now in his capacity under section 109 (1) of our Constitution, dismiss the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase," said Commodore Bainimarama.

"Furthermore as provided for under section 109 (2) of our Constitution I appoint Dr Jona Senilagakali as the caretaker Prime Minister who will advise a dissolution of Parliament." The commander said the takeover would not be permanent and that he would summon chief executive officers and charge them with the duty of running their own ministries until an interim Government is appointed.

"During the GCC meeting next week, I will be requesting the GCC to reappoint the Turaga Tui Vuda as the President," he said. "When the country is stable and the electoral rolls and other machineries of elections have been properly reviewed and amended, elections will be held."

Ministers from the last Government, he said, had been given a month to vacate their Government quarters from today and return all Government property in their possession. "They will be paid a severance pay of one months pay. There is no intention on the military to arrest these Ministers. We only ask that they live their daily lives and not interfere in the process that is now taking place."

Commodore Bainimarama said Mr Qarase's refusal to attend an audience with the President yesterday indicated the Government had no intention of solving the crisis. "The RFMF could have carried out unconstitutional and illegal activities but has not done so and will not do so. It believes in the rule of law and shall adhere to the Constitution," he said.

Following Commodore Bainimarama's announcement last night, Dr Senilagakali joined military personnel at the Officers Mess for a grog session, however, the media were not permitted to interview him.

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