Calm reigns on the pacific island of Fiji after the military took power this morning in the country’s fourth coup in 20 years. The coup began as troops arrived outside the presidential palace and began negotiations with guards to get the president to leave peacefully. Taking over is Fiji’s military chief Commander Frank Bainimarama: “As of six o’clock this evening the military has taken over the government, has executive authority and the running of this country. I urge all citizens to remain calm and maintain the peace that currently prevails”, he said on a televised announcement.
Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is under house arrest with a group of ministers, but his supporters are coming forward to wish him well, and he has called on Fijians to defend their rights: “They have brought shame to the country, It is a national embarrassment and I would appeal to all right-thinking citizens that we should stand up and fight for our democracy”. The tiny pacific island state is a tourist magnet, and neighbour Australia has sent three warships in case people want to leave in a hurry.
Parliament has been dissolved, members have been given a month to clear their offices, and told no action will be taken against them if they go quietly. Suva, the capital, is full of troops and roadblocks, but for the moment there are no protests. Since the government was elected in May the military has threatened to topple it, claiming corruption, and criticising its lenient treatment of the plotters of the last coup six years ago.