If Commodore Frank Bainimarama expected support for his removal of the democratically elected Fijian government he must be sorely disappointed this morning.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said the coup was “simply an extraordinary display of military arrogance,” and that Bainimarama was “severely deluded”.

 

The UN Secretary General condemned the takeover, Washington has suspended almost $AUD4 million in aid, Britain has cut military ties with the nation, and Don McKinnon, Secretary General of the Commonwealth, said Fiji was likely to be suspended from the Commonwealth. John Howard described the coup as a “tragic setback” and has promised trade sanctions. 

But that hasn’t shaken Bainimarama’s resolve, this morning installing interim Prime Minister Dr Jona Baravilalala Senilagakali, whose first order of business will be to dissolve the parliament.

Fijilive reports:

Bainimarama said yesterday that he had stepped into the shoes of the President and “in this capacity under Section 101 (1) of our Constitution as he (the President) is empowered to do so, dismiss the Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

He said the 1997 Constitution remained intact except for the parts dealing with the doctrine of necessity.

“We reiterate that while this cause of action is taken with great reluctance, it is necessary to steer our beloved nation into peace, stability and just solution and to preserve our Constitution. Therefore the constitution will remain in place except those parts as necessitated under the doctrine of necessity.”

But speaking on The 7.30 Report last night, Andrew Hughes, the Australian appointed chief of police who fled Fiji ahead of the coup, discredited Bainimarama’s so-called “doctrine of necessity”:

ANDREW HUGHES: He’s been flagging [the doctrine of necessity] around now for about the past two years. It’s drawn from the Pakistan scenario where there was arguably a doctrine of necessity, in some minds, at least. But the circumstance is certainly different here in Fiji, it doesn’t apply at all. He’s had independent legal advice from the Vice President, from the Law Society and others that says it’s flawed. His basis on the doctrine of necessity is flawed. He’s created this situation, so how can the doctrine of necessity apply?

Hughes also strongly denied that the Fijian police would work alongside the military:

ANDREW HUGHES: No, I know what the police reaction is, I’ve spoken to the acting Commissioner, Moses Driver, and he’s spoken to all the chief officers. We are not cooperating with it. It is an illegal regime. The democratically elected government is still in place, the President hasn’t endorsed this so the police will not be cooperating, we will not be colluding with an illegal regime.

This morning however, and perhaps in response to that interview, two trucks carrying heavily armed soldiers descended on the police compound and are now reportedly locked in negotiations seeking police “cooperation”.

Meanwhile, the situation for the citizens of Suva remains tense. This morning, a local journalist told Crikey “there is a feeling of unease on the streets. The city is virtually empty at the moment, which is very unusual at this time. Many shops are closed, and the Emperor gold mine has closed down, and more are going to follow. Other businesses are now operating on skeleton staff only. They sent people home for fear of the their lives. It’s going to be a gloomy Christmas.”

Peter Fray

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