Plot against Bainimarama revealed
One of Fiji’s senior military officers moved arms and ammunition into an historic hotel in Suva ahead of a planned 2010 coup to overthrow strongman Voreqe Bainimarama, a Fiji court heard today.
Details of the planned coup, which if carried out would have been Fiji’s fifth since independence in 1970, have not been publicly revealed before now.
Former land force commander Lieutenant Colonel Pita Driti – effectively Bainimarama’s deputy at the time – wanted to remove the dictator who had seized power in 2006 because he had lost “God’s anointment”.
Driti is on trial for sedition and incitement to mutiny, the Fijivillage website reported.
Another senior officer, Lt Colonel Tevita Mara, son of Fiji’s founding prime minister and president, the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, also faced trial but he fled the country and lives in exile in Tonga.
Fijivillage said Lt Colonel Manasa Tagicakibau told the court Driti had spoken to him of his plans, revealing details of the plot to the court.
Tagicakibau said that Driti voiced his concern about the government and stated that he had lost confidence in Bainimarama.
Driti claimed that advice from prayer groups indicated Bainimarama, who still heads the army, had lost the anointment from God. Driti also claimed Fiji’s economy was doing poorly.
The plan had been to seize the government while Bainimarama was in Sudan visiting Fiji troops serving with the United Nations in October 2010.
Driti had also wanted to find out where the military appointed attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was so that he could be removed in the planned coup.
Tagicakibau said that Driti had told him that the Attorney General is to “be terminated” before Christmas 2010.
Driti planned to set up an interim government made up of the politicians Bainimarama has overthrown in 2006.
At the time Mara was Commanding officer of 3rd Fiji Infantry and Tagicakibau said he was suspicious of him.
Fijilive said Tagicakibau told the court he was worried as he was informed that Mara was voicing his concerns about the way the government was being run.
He also said that there was movement of weapons and ammunition out of the Queen Elizabeth Barracks in Suva and were taken to the Grand Pacific Hotel site on the waterfront.
Tagicakibau said that usually weapons are placed at the empty hotel for security of the president and the number of weapons placed there depended on the number of troops.
No documents were signed for the release of these weapons in 2010.
Tagicakibau said just before Bainimarama left for Sudan he and two other officers visited him and alerted him to the plot.
Bainimarama sent Driti and Mara on leave.
Mara later fled by boat from Suva and was picked up by a Tonga navy boat in Fiji waters.
Last year Mara visited New Zealand anti-Bainimarama supporters which later led to Security Intelligence Service raids in Auckland, amidst allegations that an assassination to be carried out in Suva was plotted during the visit.
The trial continues.
- © Fairfax NZ News