Fiji’s military will help police maintain “security and stability,” the Pacific island police commissioner said Thursday, citing growing concerns over racial tensions after last week’s election resulted in a hanging parliament.
Fiji is waiting for its president to recall parliament so lawmakers can vote for a new prime minister after a national election last week showed no party won a clear majority.
Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama’s Fiji First has not been defeated, while a three-party coalition says they have a common majority and have agreed on People’s Alliance leader Sitiveni Rabuka as prime minister.
Police Commissioner Sitiveni Qiliho said he met with Bainimarama, Defense and Police Minister Inia Seruiratu and Military Commander Maj Gen Jone Kalouniwai on Thursday and they came to an agreement on military personnel “to support the police in maintaining law and order.” support amid growing concerns over racial tensions”.
“While Army and Navy personnel have been called in to assist, the police will continue to direct overall security operations,” he said in a statement on social media.
In a statement on Facebook, Bainimarama said the military had been “deployed to complement the police in maintaining law and order.”
“Reports of harassment of our citizens and violence against Indo-Fijian homes and businesses following the election are deeply disturbing,” he said.
Opposition parties have denied police reports that shops or homes of Fiji’s large Indian population were stoned after the elections, and have called for evidence.
Rabuka wrote on Twitter that he urged the people of Fiji to “respect the rule of law and allow the political process to continue unhindered.”
The Pacific island nation with a population of 900,000 had a history of military coups prior to constitutional reform in 2013 to abolish a race-based voting system that favored indigenous Fijians over ethnic Amerindians.
Bainimarama has been prime minister for 16 years, seized power in a coup and later won two democratic elections in 2014 and 2018. Rabuka is also a former coup leader.
New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand was “aware of the statement by the Fiji Police Commissioner”.
“We encourage all parties to allow the constitutional process to take place,” she said in a statement.
Fiji’s President Ratu Wiliame Katonivere has until January 2 to convene parliament, media outlet Fiji Village reported, citing a letter from Katonivere to coalition partners. The Prime Minister must be elected by more than 50% of the MPs in Parliament.
The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA), a power broker with three seats in parliament, supports policies in favor of indigenous Fijians and on Tuesday signed a coalition agreement with the Rabuka People’s Alliance and the National Federation Party.
However, SODELPA’s executive board has had to meet again after the validity of the decision to support the coalition was questioned by the party’s general secretary and Fiji’s election commissioner.
At a media conference earlier Thursday, National Federation Party leader Biman Prasad said that Fiji First Secretary-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, who was the Attorney-General in the Bainimarama government, was “trying to stir up fear in people’s minds.” and the election should accept result.
“He doesn’t accept that they lost this election, people voted for change,” Prasad said.
© Thomson Reuters 2022.