Fiji leader denies claims of coup bids

By Graham Davis

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo / Greg Bowker
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama. Photo / Greg Bowker

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has strongly denied claims made by two prominent former Fijian journalists that he tried to mount three coups before his successful takeover in December 2006.

Oxford-based academic Victor Lal and Russell Hunter, the former publisher of the Fiji Sun, wrote in the Weekend Herald that Commodore Bainimarama had tried to take over the country after the Speight coup in 2000, and then again in 2004 and 2005.

The authors wrote of leaked correspondence from some of the commodore's fellow officers urging him not to proceed and warning that they would oppose him.

But in an interview in Suva, the Fijian leader said the allegations were "not true".

In the case of 2000, Mr Lal and Mr Hunter reported that Commodore Bainimarama demanded that the military be given the authority to rule Fiji for 50 years but this was opposed by the then President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

Denying the account, Commodore Bainimarama said he was already in control of Fiji in 2000.

"For their information, I was in charge of the nation in 2000, so I took over in 2000. I gave the Government to [Laisenia] Qarase."

The Prime Minister said it was a historical fact that he had handed power to Mr Qarase hoping that he would govern for all Fijians and not just the indigenous majority.

"Everyone knows the story of 2000 when I came in, so why they change this and [have] people believing it, I don't know".

Commodore Bainimarama also denied he made subsequent attempts to seize power before his successful coup in 2006.

"In 2004 and 2005, there was no intention then to remove the Government because I was trying to tell the Government to play ball. There was a build-up of animosity between us and the Government of the day, but there was no intention then to remove them because I was trying to get them to change their stance on the Qoliqoli [coastal resources] Bill and the racism that was rife," he said.

"I was trying to persuade Qarase that he was wrong but there was no talk of us wanting to do coups then."

He said Mr Hunter was motivated by anger that he had been expelled from Fiji after 2006.

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