SUVA - Fiji faces international isolation and economic distress after military leader Frank Bainimarama last night sacked the Government and took over as President.
Ending days of tension, Commodore Bainimarama announced the imposition of virtual martial law and appointed a doctor interim Prime Minister.
He said he would act as President for one week, then ask the Great Council of Chiefs to reappoint Josefa Iloilo, the 86-year-old who was President until yesterday.
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Members of the "former" Government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had one month to clear out their offices, and would be given one month's severance pay.
In his role as President, Commodore Bainimarama appointed Dr Jona Senilagakali, president of the Fiji Medical Association and a military doctor, interim Prime Minister and said he would oversee the dissolution of the Qarase Government.
Dr Senilagakali is not a member of the military and has not served as a politician. He is reportedly Commodore Bainimarama's own GP.
The military leader said there were no plans to arrest members of Mr Qarase's Government.
But his plan to involve the police in the maintenance of law and order unravelled last night when Acting Police Commissioner Moses Driver said: "We are not going to accept any instructions coming from the military because it is an illegal organisation."
And while the military leader asked businesses to continue as normal and people to go to work, Army officers last night went to media outlets and pressured them to report the coup favourably.
Fiji's oldest and biggest newspaper - the Fiji Times - suspended publication, saying it would not bow to military interference.
Sandhya Narayan, a reporter at the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation, said the military asked the media not to publish material against the new regime.
Commodore Bainimarama told Fijians that no curfew would be imposed, but checkpoints would remain for five days and important areas and installations would be kept under guard.
He appealed to everyone to understand the situation in Fiji
"I plead to the international community to first learn and understand the situation in Fiji before you take action."
He said the 1997 constitution would remain in effect.
The bloodless coup is likely to have a serious effect on Fiji's economy.
The Fiji dollar has already fallen this week and tourism has taken a severe knock.
Prime Minister Helen Clark said Commodore Bainimarama had ripped up his country's constitution.
She could only conclude he was "severely deluded".
"He called on people not to break the law - the military commander has just ripped up Fiji's constitution and chucked it out the window," Helen Clark said on TV One's Close Up programme.
"It is supreme arrogance to say other people shouldn't break the law when you have just single-handedly set out to destroy the law."
She said Mr Qarase yesterday asked for military assistance to help stave off the coup.
The request was refused, as was a similar appeal to Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
"Our judgment is that this would make the situation worse, and it is not a step we are contemplating," Helen Clark said.
The commodore claimed his actions were legal under the doctrine of necessity, which covers exceptional circumstances such as when a government is unable to operate.
The likelihood that Fiji was on track for its fourth coup in 20 years increased on Monday when soldiers seized guns from a police armoury.
Yesterday, troops ringed Mr Qarase's house, while a group of Fijian women sang hymns on grass mats laid on the roadway behind the barricades just metres from the armed soldiers.
Now, the country faces an international backlash.
Helen Clark said senior Fiji military staff would be put on a travel black list and Fiji might be expelled from the Commonwealth.
The United Nations has warned that Fijian troops may be excluded from peacekeeping operations, depriving the country of valuable foreign income.
The New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade's website last night said: "There is high risk to your security in Suva, and an increasing risk in Fiji. We recommend against non-essential travel to Fiji at this time."
Three flights scheduled to fly to Nadi today were still set to leave, an Auckland Airport official said last night.
House of Travel retail director Brent Thomas said cancellations to Fiji had been steady over the past week.
He said there had not been an increase over the past 24 hours, "but it will be interesting to see what happens [today]".
The four coups
May 14, 1987
* Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka walks into the House of Representatives with a squad of soldiers and overthrows the month-old Government of Dr Timoci Bavadra.
September 25, 1987
* Rabuka stages a second coup, declares Fiji a republic and promises a new constitution to achieve his objective of ensuring political supremacy for indigenous Fijians.
May 19, 2000
* George Speight and his gunmen claim power for indigenous Fijians. Looters rampage through Suva, and Speight takes Mahendra Chaudhry, first ethnic Indian PM, and his Cabinet hostage.
December 5, 2006
* After days of rising tensions, military commander Frank Bainimarama takes control. "The military has taken over the Government, has executive authority and the running of this country."
* From New Zealand, Australia and the European Union - $96m
* United Nations peacekeeping payments - $12m-$20m
* Suspension by NZ and Australia of military ties with Fiji.
* Travel ban on senior Fijian military officials.
* Review of sporting contacts, with Fijian teams coming here facing bans unless they are part of an internationally sanctioned event.
* Talks have begun that could eventually lead to Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth.