Fiji. A military coup was carried out in Fiji on December
5. Commander Frank Bainimarama overthrew the elected prime
minister, Laisenia Qarase, issued a state of emergency,
dissolved Parliament and appointed himself interim
president. According to
CountryAAH, Bainimarama had since October threatened to
dismiss the prime minister, whom he considered corrupt. The
coup leader was primarily opposed to the government's
amnesty bill for many of those imprisoned for his
participation in the last military coup, in 2000. He also
believed that the government favored the native Fijians,
like himself, at the expense of the Indian population. Qarase was taken by the military to the island in eastern
Fiji he comes from.
The coup leader appointed a new prime minister, Jona
Senilagakali, a doctor with no military or political
background. This would lead a transitional government
pending new elections. The new prime minister admitted that
the coup was "illegal" but that it was better than a corrupt
The coup was condemned by the outside world. Fiji was
expelled from the British Commonwealth, Australia and New
Zealand imposed sanctions and the US suspended its
assistance to the country.
Internally, Bainimarama faced heavy opposition from the
influential Great Chief Council and Fiji's Church Council.
The coup leader tried to get the chief council to appoint a
new president, but the governors considered the coup illegal
and postponed their meetings all the time. Bainimarama then
threatened that the transitional government "can reign for
up to 50 years".
The overthrowing Prime Minister Qarase urged the people
to conduct peaceful demonstrations against the coup leaders,
saying he planned to return to the capital Suva. The
military leaders warned him to call for rebellion and
threatened to arrest him if he returned to Suva. The
militants said they would arrest and interrogate all Fijians
who spoke out against the new government. The military also
left the fences and police checks around the capital.
As late as May, Qarase had been elected for a second term
when the ruling United People's Party (SDL) won the
parliamentary elections. The turnout was 87%. In accordance
with Fiji's constitution, which aims to promote multi-party
governments with several ethnic groups, Qarase offered the
opposition party Opposition Workers Party (FLP) seats in the
new government. All parties receiving at least 10% of the
vote in the election are entitled to a proportionate share
of government seats. FLP received nine of the 24 ministerial
posts. The distribution of ministerial posts has not
previously worked, but has been a long-standing conflict
that has been settled in court several times.
It was Frank Bainimarama who stopped the coup in 2000 and
then installed Laisenia Qarase as the new prime minister.