Fiji military boss 'to be sworn in as prime minister'
Jan 4, 2007, 20:04 GMT
Wellington - Fiji's military strongman Commander Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who ousted the South Pacific island state's elected government in a coup a month ago, will be sworn in as prime minister on Friday, a day after handing power back to the civilian president, according to reports from the capital Suva.
Bainimarama, who declared a state of emergency with himself interim head of state after leading the bloodless coup on December 5, returned executive power to 86-year-old President Ratu Josefa Iloilo on Thursday.
Iloilo fully endorsed the actions of the military, saying they had acted in the interests of the nation and the constitution, and said a new interim government would offer Bainimarama and his troops immunity from prosecution for the coup, reports said.
The independent Fijilive website quoted unnamed sources in Suva as saying Iloilo would swear in Bainimarama as prime minister of the interim government on Friday.
The caretaker prime minister, Jona Senilagakali, who was appointed by Bainimarama a month ago, was reported to have resigned on Thursday.
Bainimarama will replace Laisenia Qarase who he toppled after accusing his government of corruption and adopting policies that risked racial strife by favouring indigenous Fijians over the ethnic Indian minority population.
Making his first statement since the coup, Iloilo said Thursday that an interim government would rule until new elections were held.
'It is time to move on, look ahead and take steps to form a democracy,' he said.
'I want to thank the commander and his men for stepping in to ensure security and also for handing back executive power,' he said.
The New Zealand government expressed scepticism about the statements by Iloilo and Bainimarama, with duty minister Ruth Dyson saying, 'The proof of the pudding will be in the eating - in this case whether the two are foreshadowing a genuine commitment to the restoration of democratic government and the rule of law as soon as possible.
'Confirmation that executive authority in Fiji rests with the President does not on its own satisfy the many international and regional calls for restoration of democracy and fundamental freedoms in Fiji,' she said.
Dyson said New Zealand was concerned that the president, in accepting back executive authority, endorsed the commander's actions in taking over the government.
'There is no doubt that the coup was illegal and unconstitutional,' she said. 'What is important now is that all parties work together to restore democracy and the rule of law.'
She said sanctions New Zealand took against Fiji would remain in place until 'concrete progress is made.'© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur