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Fiji military commander sworn in as premier

Frank Bainimarama, who ousted the country's elected Govt in a coup a month ago, was sworn in as prime minister by the president.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2007 12:17 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Fiji's military strongman Commander Voreqe (Frank) Bainimarama, who ousted the country's elected government in a coup a month ago, was sworn in as prime minister on Friday.

Bainimarama, who declared a state of emergency with himself as interim head of state after leading the bloodless coup on December 5, was sworn in by 86-year-old President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, whose executive power was restored on Thursday.

Bainimarama told a news conference he would facilitate legal protection and criminal and civil immunity against prosecution for the coup to himself, his officers and soldiers, the independent Fijilive website reported.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters described Bainimarama's new appointment as a "charade" and a "new-fangled idea to try to make what was happening in Fiji look legitimate".

"No one should be fooled by it," he told Radio New Zealand, confirming that his country's sanctions on its Pacific neighbour would remain in place.

The coup saw former prime minister Laisenia Qarase banished to his home island and was followed by a widespread purge of senior officials in the public service, judiciary and police.

The military has also cracked down hard on opponents of the coup, detaining and questioning human rights activists, trade union leaders and others who have expressed dissent publicly.

Bainimarama vowed to uphold the mandate given to him as prime minister and the interim administration he plans to form and uphold the constitution.

The leader said he would steady the economy through sustained growth and correct the economic mismanagement of the past six years under Qarase's government.

He said he would lift the living standards of the growing group of poor and underprivileged citizens and "eradicate systematic corruption".

Bainimarama accused Qarase's 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 on Thursday said 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."

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