Published January 13, 2015
Fiji's military ruler declared a state of emergency Wednesday one day after seizing power, local radio reported, as police, ousted politicians and senior bureaucrats defied his coup with passive resistance and international sanctions began isolating the South Pacific country.
Commodore Frank Bainimarama ordered that a security cordon be set up around the capital, Suva, check points established at strategic points around the city, and said all military reserves "will be marched into" military camps to support the state of emergency, the Legend radio network reported.
The declaration came after troops held meetings with acting Police Commissioner Moses Driver, who had earlier issued a statement denouncing the military takeover and instructing his officers not to comply with any orders given by the military regime.
Driver was taken to the main military barracks in Suva under duress, after troops came to police headquarters and demanded he accompany them, police spokeswoman Sylvia Low said.
Troops also entered and broke up a meeting of senior government bureaucrats who had convened to discuss Tuesday's takeover. Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's permanent secretary Jioji Kotobalavu was taken away by soldiers who said he was wanted for discussions at the military base, said Labor Minister Krishna Datt.
Soldiers also broke up a session of the Senate, which had convened Wednesday morning and resumed it's scheduled budget deliberations. Troops entered the chamber and ordered lawmakers to end their session, which they did peacefully, said clerk of parliament Mary Chapman.
Qarase flew out of Suva Wednesday at the request of the military, returning to his home village on an outlying island, said Pene Nonu, his private secretary.
Qarase insists he is still Fiji's legitimate leader, late Tuesday urged Fijians to peacefully oppose the armed forces.
"What the military commander has done has raped our constitution and we are becoming a laughing stock around the world," Qarase told reporters.
The prime minister's home, where he said he had considered himself under house arrest, became a focal point for government supporters on Tuesday, with scores of people gathering to sing hymns and say prayers as troops stood guard.
Suva was generally quiet Wednesday, with most businesses open but only light traffic and fewer than normal people on the streets.
Criticism of the military was subdued after censors were sent to newspapers, radio and television stations. One mainstream daily, the Fiji Times, decided not to publish Tuesday rather than submit to censorship, though it said it would resume printing Wednesday afternoon after the military said it would not interfere.
International condemnation of Bainimarama's takeover flowed in.
Washington suspended US$2.5 million (euro1.9 million) in aid to Fiji used mostly for military sales and training, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.
McCormack condemned the military's action and said the U.S. government believes Qarase's government could be reinstated because the situation is unsettled.
Australia on Tuesday joined New Zealand in suspending military ties with Fiji and slapping travel bans on armed forces officers and anyone who joins the planned interim administration. Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said further sanctions could follow.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan strongly deplored the coup and demanded the elected government be immediately restored to power, spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, adding that Fiji may not be welcome to contribute to future peacekeeping operations.
Bainimarama announced Tuesday he had seized control by assuming some powers of President Ratu Josefa Iloilo and using them to dismiss Qarase and appoint Dr. Jona Senilagakali, a military medic with no political experience, as caretaker prime minister.
Bainimarama said he would ask the Great Council of Chiefs, which has constitutional authority to appoint the president and vice president, to restore Iloilo to the post at a meeting next week.
Iloilo would then appoint a full interim government that would eventually call elections to restore democracy, Bainimarama said.
But Ovina Bokineli, the chairman of the chiefs' council, said it had canceled its scheduled meeting next week because of the coup, and that Iloilo had rejected Bainimarama's claim to the president's powers.