Fiji military chief warning has been ‘dealt with’: PM

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Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka said a public warning to the new government from the military chief had been “dealt with,” and it was unlikely the constitution would be changed to remove the military’s role in the island nation’s democracy.

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Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) Commander Major General Jone Kalouniwai warned lawmakers on Tuesday against making “sweeping changes” less than a month after a tight election that removed the government of Frank Bainimarama, who ruled the Pacific island for 16 years after taking power in a coup.

Fiji has a history of military coups, including two staged by current prime minister Rabuka in 1987. Rabuka became prime minister on December 24 after a coalition of parties narrowly voted to install him as leader of the strategically important Pacific nation.

In his public statement, Kalouniwai had cited Fiji's 2013 constitution, which gives the military responsibility to uphold the well-being of Fijians, and is viewed by some analysts as giving the military a constitutional power to intervene in politics.

Rabuka’s government has previously told media it wants to review the constitution, and would look for ways to remove the military's role.

Rabuka told reporters on Wednesday that Kalouniwai's public warning was “a one off statement that has been dealt with,” after talks between the military chief and Home Affairs Minister Pio Tikoduadua.

The Fiji Times newspaper carried a headline quoting Rabuka as saying people should “relax,” after public anxiety on Wednesday there could be another military intervention.

Responding to questions at a livestreamed press conference on Thursday, Rabuka said the government could only redefine the role of the military in Fiji’s democratic system by changing the constitution.

“That’s something that will be very difficult to achieve at this time - it demands a majority of two-thirds in the house and two-thirds of registered voters,” he said.

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