MILITARY HAS VOWED TO CRUSH ANY OPPOSITION
Despite explicit warnings from the military leaders now in control of Fiji not to interfere, Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, has again urged unarmed Fijians to engage in a resistance against the military.
He told the ABC's 7.30 Report that resisting the coup was "wise", even if the military reacted violently :
Q: Mr Downer, you've urged Fijians to engage in passive resistance against the military and post coup regime. Is that kind of advice wise if it leads to a violent response by the military, which has been threatened by Bainimarama, and people are hurt?Downer's calls for resistance, aired also for a third day in federal Parliment, follow warnings from Commodore Frank Bainimarama that "...should we be forced to use force, let me state that we will do so very quickly."
Downer : It is wise....Of course it's difficult for them and my heart goes out to a lot of them.
Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs are also urging resistance and refuse to recognise the authority of Commodore Bainimarama, or the man installed to act as Fiji's interim prime minister, Dr Jona Senilagakali.
Commodore Bainimarama said elections to choose a new government could be up to two years away.
Residents of villages in the province of Ba, in western Fiji, are now voicing dissent and villagers from the region are intending to escort their tribal high chief Ratu Josefa Iloilo to the capital in the coming days.
Military checkpoints now going up around the capital and, in towns and villages across the islands, are causing anger amongst the locals, who are said to be trying to dismantle the blockades.
Declaring a state of emergency yesterday, Commodore Bainimarama explained why he felt the coup was necessary.
"We have reasonable grounds to believe that the life of the state is being threatened," he said.He claimed that he was fighting against institutional corruption within the government, and said new staff would be hired in the coming days to go through the books and gather evidence for proposed trials of senior government ministers.
"For those who do not agree with what we are doing, we respect your opinion, but do not interfere with the process that is currently underway."
He said Fiji needed "a different kind of democracy."
The new prime minsiter, Dr Jona Senilagakali, has recognised the coup is "illegal," but said it was necessary as the previous government was "corrupt". He also issued a warning to Fiji's neighbours.
"I warn the Australian and New Zealand prime ministers to stay out of our business and to respect the sovereignty of the Fiji islands," he said.
"It's an illegal takeover to clean up the mess of a much bigger illegal activity of the previous government," Mr Senilagakali told Australia's ABC network.Dr Senilagakali claimed that the coup had been in the planning for some time and the army had warned the democratically-elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to clean up the government and deal with the controversial Australian police chief, Andrew Hughes, who he claims was promoting "the Australian foreign policy".
Australia has refused calls from the deposed leaders of Fiji to send troops, as has New Zealand, although the Australian SAS are believed to be actively operating within the islands of the archipelago.
He accepted that they had removed a democratically-elected government because "if we can put in an illegal government which is going to improve the life of the people that is a better and much higher calling than to continue the democracy which is not helping the people".
"And that is the question that I'm trying to ask myself and find solutions and I'm going to do it."
He was not worried if he ended up in jail for the takeover.
"If I end up in prison because I fought for a just cause in life, I'll be happy to do that. I will not resist."
Australia has also positioned three warships off Fiji, claiming the ships are only there in order to evacuate hundreds of Australians should the situation deteriorate into open revolt, or a violent military clampdown.
Should Fijians opposed to the coup engage the military during a resistance, and the military begins killing civilians and/or actively threatening Australia's interests on the archipelago, it would then seem likely that Australia would send in troops.
Until the military takes such actions, however, Australia is unable to deploy its forces without causing an international incident, with an impact that may reach beyond the opposition raised so far by the coup.
The bloodless coup, which was delayed over the weekend for sporting matches, is Fiji's fourth military takeover in the past two decades. It was completed on Tuesday.
American television show Survivor is currently filming a new series in Fiji, but the show was not delayed by the coup.
While the Australian government has condemned what it called a crackdown on media and press freedoms in Fiji, the main newspaper, the Fiji Times, was back in production and online yesterday afternoon after initially closing down when the editors refused to submit to censorship by the coup leaders.
From the Fiji Times :
The head of Fiji's military regime, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, has assured the media industry that his government will uphold media freedom.You can read the latest news from the Fiji Times here.
At a press conference this afternoon Commodore Bainimarama said armed guards posted at several media outlets had been withdrawn.
"We did not totally gag the media but we were only trying to stop people from taking advantage of the situation and using the media to incite people to disturb the peace that currently prevails," he said.
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