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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 December 2006, 14:22 GMT
Regional press reflects Fiji coup unease
A soldier outside orders the media to retreat outside the residence of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
Fiji is going through its fourth coup in two decades

Newspapers in Fiji, Australia and New Zealand reveal regional fears and uncertainties over the military coup in Fiji.

While most of the comment condemns the military intervention in the South Pacific nation's politics, there are those who argue it was inevitable and necessary.

Nowhere is the tension more palpable than in Fiji itself, where the Fiji Times has announced it "shuts under censorship threat".

"The Fiji Times Limited has suspended publication after the Fiji military ordered the paper not to publish any 'propaganda' against the new political leadership."

Yianni argued that a free press meant any and all opinions should be published
The Fiji Times

The paper said managing director Tony Yianni had taken the decision himself to suspend publication after the military had banned the publication of "anything from the 'deposed' Qarase government".

"Yianni argued that a free press meant any and all opinions should be published in a balanced way. The army said it would not tolerate the newspaper publishing any views that opposed those of the army."

President under fire

The Fiji Times had earlier published a criticism of the president, headlined "Defeating silence".

"At a time when the country needs the reassuring voice of the president, there is none. When the people are scared and uncertain about their future, the president is silent.

"People then should not be blamed for assuming that the president is supporting the clean-up campaign by the military. A statement from his office last week supporting the military's list of demands seemed strange then but now begins to make sense.

"The president should be more vocal and visible in supporting the democratically-elected government. By his silence, the people may wrongly draw the conclusion that he is condoning the activities of the military."

The paper went on to criticise "the Great Council of Chiefs, whose effort to facilitate dialogue between the army commander and prime minister has obviously failed".

What will happen to Fiji?
The Fiji Sun

"The country is in a mess," argues an editorial in The Fiji Sun. "The government is incapable and... the military considers itself above the law and can do as it pleases."

"Crimes committed today will have to be answered for tomorrow. Those who laugh at the law now will have ample leisure to regret it later," the paper warns.

"Meanwhile there is one more unanswered question on the lips of everyone in these islands: What will happen to Fiji?"

Writing in The Australian, Greg Sheridan calls on the government in Canberra to "avoid anything more than the automatic military sanctions which kick in in the event of a military coup... unless terrible and unpredictable bloodshed breaks out".

In a piece headlined "Let's meet coup with caution", he warns that "economic sanctions would wreak havoc on Fiji's already fragile economy, which is in any event likely to suffer a severe downturn in tourism.

"To reduce the economy to ruins would only hurt innocent Fijians. It would also be more likely than anything else to produce real violence between ethnic Fijians and ethnic Indians."

However a report in the Sydney Morning Herald is headlined "Australian tourists flock to Fiji".

Written before the coup was definitively announced, the report said "Australians seem to have shrugged off a government warning about the deteriorating situation in Fiji".

"According to tourism industry sources, there are between 8,000 and 10,000 Australians in Fiji."

A tourism official was quoted as saying coups "did not often interfere with tourist areas", giving the recent example of the military coup in Thailand earlier this year.

'Under the gun'

Sydney's Daily Telegraph publishes readers' comments on the coup, ranging from the critical to the supportive.

Joe from Sydney argues that "civilian supremacy is one of the pillars of democracy. Qarase, no matter how much Bainimarama disagrees with him, is the elected leader of Fiji".

"I guess democracy is now dead in Fiji. Or has it been dead for a long time?," he concludes.

But Vimi from Canberra believes that "Fiji has bounced back from the last coup thanks to the likes of Bainimarama".

"Ask any Fijian or Indo-Fijian and they will tell you the same. The Qarase govt has brought this onto themselves."

Villiame concurs. "If the kind of corruption existed in the Australian government as it does in the Fijian government, the entire cabinet would be jailed. Democracy doesn't exist in Fiji and hasn't for many a year.

"Our opposition party consists of two ministers. It's a farce. Qarase wasn't complaining when he was installed as leader after the 2000 coup, when a government was illegally removed."

Paradise lost and the military's god complex
Headline in The New Zealand Herald

In New Zealand, the Dominion Post carries a front-page headline "Fiji under the gun".

"With a combination of thuggery and constitutional sleight-of-hand, Fiji's Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama staged the nation's fourth coup in 19 years and created a military dictatorship."

The Post describes the appointment of an interim prime minister as "a piece of legal trickery termed the doctrine of necessity".

For The New Zealand Herald, "the military has finally seized control in Fiji in the fourth coup in 20 years after days of shadow-boxing".

An article in the Herald by Rod Emmerson is headlined: "Paradise lost and the military's god complex".

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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