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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 07:14 GMT
Profile: Fiji's military leader
Commodore Frank Bainimarama on 8 November 2006
Cmdr Bainimarama has frequently criticised government policies
Fiji's outspoken military chief Voreqe Bainimarama, more popularly known as Frank, has gone from thwarting a coup in 2000, to instigating one of his own.

In 2000, as the recently-appointed head of the armed forces, he moved to impose martial law after days of chaos following the racially-motivated coup by businessman George Speight.

Commodore Bainimarama, a former naval commander, became head of an interim military government for three months until a new president was appointed.

He was also instrumental in bringing in Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase - the man he ousted when he seized power in December 2006.

Not afraid to speak his mind, Cmdr Bainimarama had become a frequent critic of Mr Qarase's government.

While politicians accused him of inappropriate interference in political affairs, he still appears to have widespread support among the military.

Widening rift

His decision to seize power stemmed from his vehement opposition towards legislation that could have granted amnesties for Mr Speight - now serving life for treason - and other coup plotters, who wanted to depose the first ethnic Indian prime minister in favour of indigenous Fijians.

The legislation could also have had an impact on soldiers - whose unit were involved in the 2000 coup - jailed for staging a mutiny six months later at a military barracks, forcing Cmdr Bainimarama to flee for his life.

Cmdr Bainimarama - an ethnic Fijian - feared the new law would once again inflame the island's racial tensions, where Fiji's ethnic Indians make up around 40% of the 900,000 population.

This rift between the military and the government widened dramatically in October when the prime minister tried - and failed - to remove Cmdr Bainimarama while he was out of the country.

Mr Qarase's nominated replacement turned the job down saying he still supported Cmdr Bainimarama.

After weeks of mounting tension and rumours of a coup, Cmdr Bainimarama finally announced he was taking power on 5 December.

"This constitution allows his excellency [the president] to sack the prime minister in cases such as this. However, the stalemate has forced me to step forward and the military has taken over government," he told a news conference.


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