Fiji military chief warns MPs against ‘sweeping changes’

Sitiveni Rabuka became PM in December after a coalition of parties voted for him as leader.

Sitiveni Rabuka became PM in December after a coalition of parties voted for him as leader. Photo: AAP

Fiji’s military chief is warning MPs against making “sweeping changes” less than a month after contested elections that removed the government of Frank Bainimarama, who ruled the Pacific island for 16 years after taking power in a coup.

Fiji has a history of military coups, including two staged by current Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987.

Mr Rabuka became prime minister on December 24 after a coalition of parties narrowly voted to install him as leader of the strategically important Pacific nation.

On Tuesday, Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Commander Major General Jone Kalouniwai said the military would “like to raise its concerns with regards to the sweeping changes of the current government to establish a firm transition of power and democratic control as the government of the day”.

After making the statement, he was called to a meeting by Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua, who holds responsibility for the military in the new government.

Mr Tikoduadua said later in a statement on Facebook he had “assured the commander that all the government’s actions have been guided by the law”.

They had exchanged views frankly, Mr Tikoduadua said, and “we both believe in the rule of law, democracy … and respecting the will of the people through the outcome of the 2022 general election and protecting that decision, let come what may”.

Fiji’s democratic values had been eroded under the previous government, he said, and “our institutions are absorbing the impact of a new government with different ideas and new priorities”.

“Some say change is occurring too fast. Others say not fast enough,” he said.

The Fiji Sun newspaper reported earlier that the government had said it would review Fiji’s 2013 constitution, which gives the military responsibility to uphold the wellbeing of Fijians, and is viewed by some analysts as giving the military a constitutional power to intervene in politics.

General Kalouniwai’s statement, reported in local media, does not mention any specific issues with the government but does say unidentified “changes are creating shortcuts that circumvent the relevant processes and procedures”.

“The RFMF believes that trying and failing to democratise in adverse circumstances has the potential to bring about fateful, long-term national security consequences,” General Kalouniwai said.


Topics: Fiji
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