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Commodore Bainimarama, Military Leader
"We will not accept any demands"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 30 May, 2000, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
Profile: Fiji's new military leader
Commodore Bainimarama
Commodore Bainimarama taking power "with great reluctance"
By BBC News Online's Sheila Barter

Fiji's military leader Frank Bainimarama has never been a soldier and has no experience of war or politics.

Observers say the quiet naval commodore has never even been seen as a strong leader.

He appears to be running the most polite form of martial law he can muster.

Commodore Bainimarama told the BBC on Tuesday his aim was to "get the kids back to school, and shops open for business again".

We are doing this for Fiji, to ensure that stability comes about again

Commodore Bainimarama
A naval officer, he was appointed as chief of staff a year ago.

New Zealand defence analyst Jim Rolfe described him as a quiet, reflective man who believed in constitutional norms.

Many Fijian soldiers and reserves have served in Middle East peacekeeping forces, but with a career in the navy Commodore Bainimarama has not even had that experience.

"Their tactics in the Lebanon were that they were very firm. If they were fired at they would fire back and they shot to kill," said David Dickens, director of New Zealand's Centre of Strategic Studies.

George Speight
Bainimarama has offered an amnesty to George Speight
"I just wonder how long it will be before they shoot Mr Speight. I think if they got into a firefight they would deal with him quite differently."

The commodore's softly-softly approach may mask a split in the ranks, according to some diplomatic sources who have said they are stunned at his lack of firmness with the coup leaders.

He appears to have placed no troops close to the Parliament building where coup leader George Speight is still holding more than 30 hostages.

Bus loads of supporters have even been seen entering the building unchallenged since martial law began.

If the military governs for any length of time then I think his position could be challenged

Analyst John Henderson
Commodore Bainimarama has given indications that his long-term aim may be to guard democracy, rather than abolish it.

He revoked the constitution but then said all its elements would be enforced under martial law.

He has said he wants no part in a government, and has offered an amnesty to Mr Speight.

In his BBC interview, Commodore Bainimarama said he was "sorry" to admit that Mr Speight would be a free man once the crisis was over, despite his actions.

"We are doing this for Fiji, to ensure that stability comes about again," he said.

Troops in garden
Bainimarama's men have stayed away from parliament
"We want to take out fear and to remove uncertainty."

Some have questioned how long a man so lacking in experience can remain in control if military rule is prolonged.

New Zealand political scientist John Henderson said the army could eventually resent being run by a man who has never been a soldier.

"Bainimarama came from the navy and I remember when he was appointed that there were a few eyebrows raised about why the army didn't get the position," said Mr Henderson.

"If the military governs for any length of time then I think his position could be challenged."

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