Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Leave Reason Won't Wash as Bainimarama Purges Opponents

Posted by Stuff.co.nz - 26 October 2010
by Michael Field

Unrest Brewing in Fiji.

Key members of a colonel’s clique that backed Fiji’s 2006 military coup have been sent on indefinite leave by military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama amid wild rumours of further action.
Two key figures were dumped yesterday following the unexplained departure of another last month as Bainimarama appears to be fending off challenges.

The biggest fall came yesterday when Land Force Commander Brigadier General Pita Driti lost his job.
He followed Police Chief Commodore Esala Teleni who lost his job in unexplained circumstances last month.
Also removed yesterday was the commander of the 3rd Fiji Infantry Regiment (3FIR), Colonel Tevita Mara.
He is the son of Fiji’s founding leader, Ratu Kamisese Mara.
During the coup in 2006, Driti was particularly outspoken against New Zealand and said that if he ever took over Fiji Wellington would be forced to close its high commission in Suva.
In a statement, Bainimarama said Driti and Mara had a lot of leave and they were being made to take it.
“The military is trying to get all officers and enlisted men to take their leave once it’s due.”
Bainimarama’s action is in marked contrast to what he did with his own untaken leave; he paid himself F$200,000 (NZ$143,000) in back pay.
Former Land Force Commander Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka has dismissed the leave claims.
“Sounds quite familiar as the dictator’s axe dropped, oh, so close to him again,” he wrote in a blog-site, Coup Four and a Half.
“The succession plan that we all thought had been so meticulously put in place by our self-installed strongman prime minister, seems to have back fired in recent weeks.
“To close military regime watchers, the media release gobbledegook masked the Commodore’s double speak for shafting his once two most powerful lieutenants before sending them off to Coventry, just like his former best mate Esala Teleni.
“If there is one thing Bainimarama is consistent on, it is his despotic and crafty way of despatching senior military officers, all in the name of power.”
Baledrokadroka was forced out of the military in early 2006 and accused of plotting a mutiny to overthrow Bainimarama.
“Once leave is taken, and with doctored investigations conducted, none of these officers have ever returned to duties or, similarly, have ever been charged. All have quietly disappeared from the RFMF payroll with no redress of wrong,” he said.
The Fiji Government’s Ministry of Information has denied that the colonels were moved out because of alleged plots against Bainimarama. 
The new Land Force Commander has been named as Lieutenant Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga while Major Amani Suliano takes over the 3FIR.
The 3FIR is based at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Suva and their loyalty is crucial to control of the capital.
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