Fiji - Bainimarama announces coup
Australian Broadcasting Corporation TV PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT - Broadcast: 05/12/2006
KERRY O'BRIEN: The Fiji coup has finally happened. After weeks of warnings and 24 hours putting all his chess pieces into place, Fiji's military chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama formalise the coup with this statement earlier tonight.
COMMODORE FRANK BAINIMARAMA, CHIEF, FIJI MILITARY FORCE: As of 6:00 this evening, the military has taken over the government, has executive authority and the running of this country.
KERRY O'BRIEN: The coup leader had earlier disarmed police and sought the Prime Minister's dismissal from the President. Commodore Bainimarama claims the President was prevented from "exercising his constitutional powers" and sacking the Prime Minister by some, including the Vice President. So he himself claimed the powers of President.
FRANK BAINIMARAMA: Therefore, having stepped into the shoes of the President, I shall now in his capacity under section 111 of our Constitution, as he is empowered to do so, dismiss the Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase.
KERRY O'BRIEN: And Commodore Bainimarama says he's put steps in place to dissolve the parliament, establish an interim government and after a proper process, he says, have a democratic election for a new government. The question is, will the so far non-violent coup remain that way? Fiji's Australian-born Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes is on a somewhat interrupted holiday in North Queensland after a strategic withdrawal from Fiji. He's been receiving briefings from Fiji throughout the day and I spoke with him just a short time ago by satellite from Cairns.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Andrew Hughes, you've been getting briefings from Fiji throughout the day, how have you reacted to the day's events?
ANDREW HUGHES, FIJI POLICE COMMISSIONER: Well, I think this was quite predictable. It was really a question of when. As we know, the Commander has declared martial law but it's without the sanction of the President and it's without the Prime Minister and the elected government resigning. So it's quite an unusual circumstance from that point of view.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Commodore Bainimarama said tonight that he'd taken over the powers of the president because President Josefa Iloilo had been prevented by some, including the Vice President, he said, from exercising his Constitutional powers, meaning, I assume, exercising his Constitutional powers to sack the Prime Minister. What's your information on the President's position?
ANDREW HUGHES: Yeah, no, that's not right. Again, it's the Commander using the, using circumstances and twisting them to suit his own purposes. He's had essentially control on the President's office through the CEO or the official secretary of the President, who's been colluding with the military for some time now, but the President has quite clearly stated that he does not condemn or condone the military action but he's urging them to act within the law. And that's the view of the President. So he doesn't have the President's support. No one's influencing the President. That's the President's view.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Commodore Bainimarama says that he's acting under the doctrine of necessity. Do you understand what that doctrine is and does that give him any legitimacy, in your view?
ANDREW HUGHES: No, none at all. He's been flagging this 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?
KERRY O'BRIEN: Commodore Bainimarama says that police will work with the army under a joint command centre to keep the peace. What's your understanding of the likely police reaction?
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.
KERRY O'BRIEN: But will there be any resistance from the police?
ANDREW HUGHES: It will be passive resistance. It will be non-violent resistance. We're not in any position, as I've said before, to offer any forceful resistance to the military. We're simply not geared for that. It would be foolish and it would be suicidal, potentially. No, it's passive resistance, we're not going to cooperate with them.
KERRY O'BRIEN: That exclusive interview with Fiji's Police Commissioner, Andrew Hughes.