Fiji’s government accused of fueling fear to stay in power while troops were deployed



Fiji’s opposition accused the government on Friday of sowing “fear and chaos” in a bid to hang on to power, as the army was deployed on the streets of the capital Suva.

AFP journalists witnessed a small number of military vehicles on patrol, a day after Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama announced their mobilization to maintain “law and order”.

Otherwise, the scene was quiet with people doing last-minute Christmas shopping.

The opposition coalition wins the election

Former naval commander Bainimarama has led Fiji since a 2006 military coup and has refused to concede defeat after the December 14 election.

The vote resulted in the opposition – led by former coup rival leader and former prime minister Sitiveni “Rambo” Rabuka – picking up enough seats to form a coalition government.

Bainimarama’s allies have delayed a meeting of parliament to appoint Rabuka as the next prime minister.

Meanwhile, Bainimarama has cited unfounded reports of post-vote ethnic violence as a reason for deploying the military and “doing our duty” to keep Fiji safe.

Under Fiji’s constitution, the military has broad powers to intervene in politics and has been involved in four coups in the past 35 years.

Watch: Fiji’s Bainimarama vows to respect election result as polls close

Many Fijians fear that the government’s claims of ethnic violence and military deployment are a pretext for a “coup”.

Australia has warned tens of thousands of its citizens visiting Fiji during the summer holidays “to avoid any post-election demonstrations, rallies and public gatherings, which could occur at short notice”.

On Friday, Rabuka criticized the government for alleging that levels of racism have increased since the election.

He said senior government officials were “sowing fear and chaos” and “trying to set the nation on fire along racial lines.”

‘#FijiIsUnited’

Fiji, a nation of more than 300 islands in the South Pacific, has a large Indo-Fijian minority and intercommunal violence has been a problem in the past.

But, Rabuka claimed: “Senior police officials have confirmed to us that these claims of stone-throwing targeting Indo-Fijians are fabrications.”

Some Fijians have taken to social media to reject claims of division and unrest.

Using the hashtag #FijiIsUnited, they posted pictures of themselves with friends of other ethnicities, messages of solidarity and mundane photos as evidence that life goes on as normal.

Fiji’s number two police force, Assistant Commissioner Abdul Khan, an Indo-Fijian, abruptly resigned from the force, reportedly in protest at the government’s actions.

Although parliament has been delayed, Bainimarama’s allies have worked to overturn the opposition coalition deal.

But members of the small Liberal Social Democratic Party on Friday resisted intense pressure to reverse their support for Rabuka and join Bainimarama’s government.

Party leader Viliame Gavoka said the party’s second vote on the coalition on Friday was “very close” but again sided with Rabuka.

“Democracy has won, we have observed the process to the fullest, we have entered it fully committed to ensuring that we have the best for this country,” he said.

He added that Parliament will convene “shortly” to vote on the new government.

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