VISEISEI VILLAGE, Fiji – Some 10,000 people packed a village in Fiji on Thursday for a state funeral for former President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, a tribal chief who backed the latest military takeover of the South Pacific country.
Iloilo, who had a longtime heart condition, died Feb. 7 in the capital, Suva, at age 91.
He served as president from 2000 to late 2009, having been appointed to the country's highest office shortly after the collapse of the country's third military coup. He became a key ally of armed forces chief Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who overthrew the elected government in a December 2006 coup.
Bainimarama seized the president's powers in the coup, but returned them within days to Iloilo, who then swore in the armed forces chief as prime minister and his appointees as the Cabinet, giving the regime a veneer of legitimacy.
Iloilo stepped in again on Bainimarama's behalf in April 2009, when Fiji's Court of Appeal ruled that Bainimarama's government was illegal and all decisions that it had made were invalid.
Iloilo responded by abolishing the constitution, firing the nation's judges and imposing emergency rule that is still in effect, with the nation ruled by decrees issued by the office of the president on the advice of Bainimarama and his Cabinet.
The state funeral, held in the western Fijian village where Iloilo was born, was led by Fiji's military forces.