|WAITING: Qarase and supporters in last hours on fateful day.|
PREAMBLE: The following statement intends to shed some light on the souring of relations between the Commander Fiji Military Forces Frank Bainimarama and the Prime Minister of Fiji, Laisenia Qarase, shortly after the elections in 2001.
BACKGROUND: Following the overthrow of the Labor Coalition government of Mahendra Chaudhry in the year 2000 by the George Speight Group the military then proceeded to install an interim civilian government to prepare Fiji for elections. This interim government was led by Laisenia Qarase, a nominee of the military at the time. To his credit Mr Qarase took Fiji to the polls within 18 months of assuming office in the interim government and along the way formed the SDL party which won 31 seat in the house of representatives. The Fiji Labour party and Mahendra Chaudhry won 27 seats and the new Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party won 6 seats. The Matanitu Vanua party formed a Coalition with the SDL party, which enabled Mr Qarase to become an elected Prime Minister for the first time in September of 2001.
Throughout the term of the interim government and going into the 2001 elections proper Bainimarama & Qarase enjoying a cordial working relationship so the question is what went wrong.
Bainimarama is on record of accusing Mr Qarase of being soft on those who were involved in the 2000 uprising. However, there is an issue which will be exposed here as to why Bainimarama began to agitate against Laisenia Qarase.
During the course of the 2000 coup various events had occurred and for which those who had broken the law were being held to account. The actions of the military and its commander were also implicated in a series of unconstitutional and unlawful acts for eg, the abrogation of the 1997 constitution which was overruled by the Chandrika case, the removal of the President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and the deaths of soldiers at the military barracks in November of 2000. For these and any other unlawful acts by the Commander and his soldiers a immunity Bill was being prepared by the interim cabinet of Mr Qarase in the year 2000 – 2001.
This same Bill was then proposed to be tabled in the Fiji Parliament for ratification in 2004. Fortunately for Bainimarama the SDL party at the time did not have the majority in Parliament to pass the Bill outright and during the course of highly confidential meetings of a committee made up of members of parliament from the SDL and the Matanitu Vanua parties the Bill was set aside on the advice of the Matanitu Vanua party members who opposed it. This opened the way for Frank Bainimarama and any other military personnel to be subject to the due process of law and prosecution for any crime or unlawful acts committed in the year 2000.
The failure of Qarase to ratify Frank’s immunity in the Parliament led to Frank turning against him.
It is common knowledge that the Fiji Police Force had been pursuing Frank for interrogation concerning various issues relating to the year 2000 and they were closing in on him in 2006 which led him to go over the line and stage the coup in December of 2006. The draft immunity Bill is attached as evidence.
Following the rejection of the Immunity Bill Prime Minister Qarase then proceeded towards a more holistic piece of legislation which came in the form of the Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill which was rejected by the Fiji Labor Party and Frank Bainimarama. Referring to the Reconciliation Bill, Bainimarama had stated that justice must be served first and Reconciliation later. These comments have certainly come home to roost in his case.
Frank had evaded the law back then and he continues to evade the long arm of the law at present but for how long?