Fiji’s military chief has warned MPs against making “sweeping changes”, less than a month after contested elections that removed the government of Frank Bainimarama, who ruled the Pacific island for 16 years after taking power in a coup.
Under Fiji’s constitution – adopted in 2013 – the military has wide powers to intervene in politics. The new government – under the control of prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka – has said that reviewing the constitution is one of its immediate priorities.
On Tuesday, major general Jone Kalouniwai, commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF), said the military would “like to raise its concerns with regards to the sweeping changes of the current government to establish a firm transition of power and democratic control as the government of the day”.
Kalouniwai’s statement, reported in local media, does not mention any specific issues with the government but does say unidentified “changes are creating shortcuts that circumvent the relevant processes and procedures”.
“The RFMF believes that trying and failing to democratise in adverse circumstances has the potential to bring about fateful, long-term national security consequences,” Kalouniwai said.
Hours after issuing the statement, however, he said the military would continue to “honour the current government that is in place”. “Let me just reassure the public that the RFMF will continue to stand with democracy, we will continue to respect the law.”
New PM Rabuka, a former military commander, became prime minister on 24 December after a coalition of parties narrowly voted to install him as leader of the strategically important Pacific nation.
Fiji has been shaken by four coups in the past 35 years, and the possibility of military intervention loomed over a tight general election last month. Two were staged by Rabuka himself in 1987.
The Fiji prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Fiji’s military also could not be immediately reached by Reuters.
Fiji has been pivotal in the South Pacific’s response to increasing competition for influence between China and the United States. Rabuka has said he favours western-style democracy.
With Reuters and Agence France-Presse