National security top priority, says army chief

  • 9th December 2004
  • 2004
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Army commander Frank Bainimarama says he would not allow anyone to tamper with national security.

He warned: “If we don’t act, this country will go to the dogs and no investor will want to come here.”

Speaking to The Fiji Times from Australia, Bainimarama expressed concern that people implicated in the 2000 coup “were back in the government”.

“That’s why we’ve always said the reconciliation process was a farce. The 2001 elections brought back all of George Speight’s group except him.

“When people like Apisai Tora, Qoriniasi Bale and Jioji Kotobalavu speak you know they have an agenda,” the army chief said.

Recently, the army’s action in denouncing the release of jailed vice president Ratu Jope Seniloli on a special ministerial order and its insistence that the replacement vice president be someone not connected with the 2000 coup, has unleashed government criticism and ire.

Government has accused the army chief of interfering in national politics and of bypassing protocol in issuing public statements. There is also some speculation that the army may have influenced the President’s decision to have his secretary removed from office.

Bainimarama denied influencing the removal of the President’s secretary or of nominating someone for the post of vice president. But he asserted that the military would put pressure on anyone who tampered with national security.

I doing so, he has served notice that the army was not prepared to take a back seat in national affairs as far as security, and law and order was concerned.

The nation has been aghast at government’s decision to release Seniloli on a Compulsory Supervision Order. The Bau chief was jailed for four years for coup related activities, He served less than three months in prison before his release.

Meanwhile, the Fiji Labour Party has hit back at government Senator Apisai Tora for his comment that the army was a threat to national security.

Labour President Jokapeci Koroi responded that “Senator Tora himself was a threat to national security” and that he is still barred from travelling to Australia, New Zealand, USA and the UK for his complicity in terrorist activities related to the 2000 coup.

She added that the military’s current stand-off with the SDL government was caused by its blatant partiality towards charged and convicted terrorists.

The government had time and again shown its contempt for the rule of law when it came to dealing with terrorists within its own ranks.

“A glaring example is the payment of salary to the jailed former vice president and his subsequent release from prison under a CSO… there are many other examples of the SDL government rewarding those implicated in the terrorist takeover of parliament and the hostage crisis of May 2000”.