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Fiji Time: 9:04 PM on Wednesday 30 July

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We'll remain calm, Ratu Joni

Saturday, November 04, 2006

VICE President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, pictured, said although he and the President had been criticised publicly, they would remain calm.

And he assured that the standoff between the military and the Government would be dealt with carefully.

Given the military's aggressive reactions, it would not be wise to stir things up at the moment, he said.

Speaking in Fijian to more than 4000 villagers at the Macuata Day celebrations in Naduri, Ratu Joni said the storm would die down and the people should think of the past and reflect on the future.

He said it was important to understand where the country was heading and to move on.

Ratu Joni said it was useless to point fingers and everyone should reflect on their own actions and remain clam.

He asked the villagers to pray for peace and for guidance for the leaders and there was no reason to become a party to the tension.

Ratu Joni said wisdom and understanding were needed to solve the impasse. He said gatherings of festivities such as the Macuata Day was needed at times when the political atmosphere was tense.

Tui Macuata Ratu Aisea Katonivere said Ratu Joni's speech was very encouraging and motivating. He said the chiefs of Macuata had discussed their stand on the current situation, which they would relay to Ratu Joni.

The people of Macuata, he said, wanted the current government to continue its term without interference.

He said the government leaders and the military should sit down and work out an amicable solution to their differences.

Meanwhile, former army commander and Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama had overstepped the mark. However, he adds that the Government's actions in trying to remove him while he was overseas were cowardly.

Mr Rabuka yesterday hit out publicly for the first time at Commodore Bainimarama, who is under investigation by police for allegedly making seditious comments, and called for him to be replaced.

Commodore Bainimarama had said that unless the Government backed down on two pieces of controversial legislation, he would march into the Prime Minister's office and force him to resign. On Tuesday the Government tried to remove the commander and replace him, but the move failed in the face of resistance from the military.

Commodore Bainimarama is overseas visiting Fijian troops serving in peacekeeping missions.

Mr Rabuka said the military chief's actions were making people doubt Fiji's ability to live in a democratic system.

"I think the Government should appoint a new commander if this one is not toeing the line but it is up to the government.

"It is not for the commander to step down. He believes he is doing the right thing.

"If the government believes he is not doing the right thing, then the government should do the right thing and appoint someone in his stead. The unfortunate thing is that the government is trying to do it while the commander is away.

"It is a very cowardly way of doing it."

Mr Rabuka was critical of army's officers and that the government could not find one to replace Commodore Bainimarama.

Colonel Ratu Meli Saubulinayau is believed to have been offered the job by President Josefa Iloilo on Tuesday but declined.

"For a professional officer who is appointed to a position like that he should salute and say, 'Yes sir, thank you very much'. He should go back and rally the troops and say, 'I have been appointed'."

Mr Rabuka said the Government should have offered Commodore Bainimarama a different job in 2001.

"Because Commodore Bainimarama had taken on a political role in appointing the interim government, they should have immediately, on being appointed, said we would like you to come away from the army, like they did to me and the commissioner of police.

"He should have been forced to stand down and take a political role or have been given another role in the government, maybe permanent secretary of home affairs and been in charge of the army and police from a civilian point of view."

Mr Rabuka said the police should continue their investigations into the 2000 coup but he believed they had already arrested and charged everyone involved.

"Everybody who should have been grabbed has been grabbed. But let the police continue with their investigations and if they come up with anybody else, grab them.

"My paramount chief has been in and out and if my chief can go to jail why should we cover up anyone else?"

Mr Rabuka said Commodore Bainimarama could end up on the wrong end of the law if he continues with his war of words against the Government.

"If you have done something, you are answerable to the law and that is why Frank should be very careful about what he does and says.

"We will eventually be answerable to the law of the land."


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