Te Karere Ipurangi
Fiji Coup Supplement

May 29, 2000 - 1159/1201midnight
FIJI - What is Martial Law?

by Ross Nepia Himona


Commander Frank Bainimarama tonight reluctantly declared martial law over all of Fiji, personally assumed executive authority, and imposed curfews on all citizens. All Army territorials and reservists have been called up.

What does it mean?

I'm having to dig deep into my memory banks here, having been retired from the New Zealand Army for 18 years. Quite simply the Fiji Military Forces are in total control of all aspects of the governance of Fiji, and Commander Bainimarama replaces both the President and the Government, and everyone else who had any power.

All citizens and visitors in Fiji are subject to military rule, and are required to obey all decrees issued by Commander Bainimarama. He has already imposed curfews, and in extreme circumstances, soldiers can be authorised to shoot any persons breaking curfew. It is also usual to authorise soldiers to shoot looters and rioters on sight.

Commander Bainimarama will most probably appoint civilians to run essential aspects of Government.

Why would he declare martial law?

Without doubt this has been a contingency option for some days, in the event that law and order got completely out of hand, but it is not a step lightly taken. It is a last resort. No doubt Commander Bainimarama has consulted with senior civilian leaders, and may well have been invited by them to impose martial law, given that negotiations with George Speight seemed to be going nowhere, and violence had escalated. He will probably continue to consult with and be advised by senior civilian leaders.

What next?

This evening some journalists have been predicting a harsh end for George Speight and his controllers and supporters. However they still have many hostages, and now responsibility for negotiation falls upon the military. In my opinion it would be totally disastrous for any hostage rescue operation to be mounted, and they are not likely to consider that option unless the perpetrators of the coup begin to kill hostages.

Unless George Speight and the rest of the hostage takers quickly capitulate, we could be in for a long wait yet. Will they capitulate? Your guess is as good as mine.

So don't hold your breath for a quick solution. But don't count it out either.

How serious is this?

Serious enough. But this too will pass.


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