Fiji coup leader replaces defiant police chief
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Fiji coup leader replaces defiant police chief

Fiji's military ruler Commodore Bainimarama has warned that his troops would not tolerate dissent.

india Updated: Dec 06, 2006 13:14 IST

Fiji's military ruler on Wednesday replaced the country's police chief a day after he seized power after the commissioner refused to take orders from the new regime, and warned that his troops would not tolerate dissent.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama accused ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase of inciting people to rise against the military by declaring his takeover illegal, and said he had declared a state of emergency after receiving intelligence that some people were planning civil disruption.

"For those who do not agree with what we are doing, we respect your opinion, but do not interfere with the process that is currently under way," Bainimarama said in an address broadcast nationally.

"There is no point in debating the legality or otherwise of our actions. Qarase and his cronies are not coming back."

He said the military wanted a peaceful transition of power to an interim administration and eventually elections that would restore democracy.

"But should we be forced to use force, let me state that we will do so very quickly," he said.

Bainimarama, who declared on Tuesday he had seized executive authority from the president and dismissed Qarase, on Wednesday swore in an elderly military medic and political novice, Dr Jona Senilagakali, as caretaker prime minister.

But he said his plan for the appointment of a full interim government was on hold because Fiji's powerful council of tribal chiefs had cancelled a meeting scheduled for next week that he had hoped would endorse a caretaker government.

The cancellation of the Great Council of Chiefs' meeting was a blow to Bainimarama because its approval would have signalled the chiefs -- hugely influential among the majority indigenous Fijian population -- gave tacit endorsement to the takeover.

Bainimarama said ministerial posts in the caretaker government would be thrown open to applicants via advertisements, and in the meantime a military commission would rule along with Senilagakali.

The military tightened its grip on government after a tense day in which senior bureaucrats and lawmakers considered whether to oppose Bainimarama, and as Qarase left the capital after being warned by the armed forces not to make trouble.

Bainimarama declared a state of emergency, ordering a security cordon to be set up around Suva, check points positioned at strategic points in the city, and for all military reservists to be brought in for duty supporting the regime.

Qarase angered Bainimarama by saying late Tuesday the military had "raped" Fiji's Constitution and urged people to peacefully resist the takeover. "I don't think we should take this lying down."

Police chief Moses Driver also openly opposed Bainimarama, ordering his officers to disregard any orders from the military, whose actions he said were "treasonous."

"The regime that they have put in place is illegal," he said. "The Fiji Police will not now, or ever, have any part of it."

Bainimarama said government members do not "have the freedom to incite the people to rise against the military" and warned he would impose curfews and other tough measures if he deemed it necessary.

He named former deputy police chief Jim Koroi as Driver's replacement.

Troops entered and broke up a meeting on Wednesday senior bureaucrats who had convened to discuss Tuesday's takeover, and separately entered Parliament's Senate to end a session of scheduled budget deliberations. Bainimarama announced late Wednesday he had formally dissolved Parliament.

International condemnation of Bainimarama's takeover flowed in. Washington condemned the Fiji military's action and suspended $2.5 million (euro1.9 million) in aid to Fiji for military sales and training, US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

Australia on Tuesday joined New Zealand in suspending military ties with Fiji and slapping travel bans on armed forces officers and anyone who joins the planned interim administration.

First Published: Dec 06, 2006 13:14 IST