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Fiji Braces for Protests Against Military Coup

May 18, 1987|From Reuters

SUVA, Fiji — All reserve soldiers were asked to report to the nearest barracks as soon as possible Sunday as the Fiji military, which staged a bloodless coup Thursday, prepared for escalating protests against the takeover.

The government-owned radio broke into programs Sunday night to alert listeners for an important broadcast by the governor general and the officer who led the coup against the Indian-dominated government, but there was no broadcast and a government source said an "impasse" had arisen.

One report said that Governor General Ratu Penaia Ganilau had agreed to swear in Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, the coup leader, as head of a new government, but this could not be confirmed.

Plans New Constitution

Rabuka has announced plans for a new constitution to prevent Indian dominance of any future government. Political observers said the radio announcement seemed to indicate that Rabuka and Ganilau had reached agreement over this.

An agreement between Ganilau and Rabuka would break the constitutional deadlock that developed after Rabuka's arrest Thursday of Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra and his Indian-majority government. Fiji is a member of the Commonwealth, and the governor general is the representative of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

Lt. Col. Rabuka suspended Fiji's constitution, enacted when the island nation achieved independence from Britain in 1970, and proclaimed himself head of the Council of Ministers and the Royal Fiji Military Forces.

Within hours, Ganilau announced that he had assumed executive control of the country and declared a state of emergency.

Judges Reject Army Rule

Ganilau, who has refused to recognize the coup leaders, was backed Sunday by the Fiji judiciary, who branded the military administration "illegal and invalid."

The governor general was met Sunday by a large group of Indian and Fijian supporters when he landed at Suva's Nausori Airport after a weekend trip to his home island. He left the airport in his staff car and was driven home with police escort.

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