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Rabuka too behind mutiny, says daily

By Amit Baruah

SINGAPORE, NOV. 13. Mr. Sitiveni Rabuka, a former Army commander responsible for two coups in Fiji in 1987, was behind the mutiny and attempted takeover of the Queen Elizabeth barracks in Suva earlier this month, Fiji's Daily Post reported today.

The newspaper said the officer who led the counter- offensive against the mutineers, Lt. Col. Viliame Seruvakula, maintained that the rebels interrogated by the military had blamed Mr. Rabuka for the November 2 mutiny, in which eight soldiers were killed and 20 injured in bloody fighting.

The Lt. Col. reportedly stated that Mr. Rabuka's intention was to ``claim military leadership and ultimately overthrow the Government of the day''.

Mr. Rabuka, a former Prime Minister and Army commander, denied the report that he was behind the attempted takeover of the Queen Elizabeth barracks. However, he did not respond to claims made by the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, that he had called a meeting of senior officers loyal to him to remove the current chief.

Lt. Col. Seruvakula reportedly said that Mr. Rabuka tried to get civilians into the barracks to act as human shields for the mutineers. The officer informed Mr. Rabuka that there were only two minutes to ``h-hour'', the military's code for the counter- offensive against the rebels belonging to the Counter- Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) unit.

``However, Mr. Rabuka tried to prolong the stand-off with the alleged intention of getting civilians into the Queen Elizabeth barracks. He (Lt. Col. Seruvakula) said Mr. Rabuka wanted to create a similar scenario in Parliament after May 19 where civilians were used as human shields,'' the newspaper said.

An increasingly assertive Commodore Bainimarama has accused Mr. Rabuka of `politicising' and `confusing' the Army.

When asked why CRW members had supported the May 19 coup leader, George Speight, now in custody, the military commander told Fiji's Sunday Times that ``Rabuka had politicised them''. ``One of my officers summed it all up by saying that if there was no CRW unit there would have been no coup and no mutiny attempt. I agree with him,'' Commodore Bainimarama was quoted as telling the newspaper. The CRW, raised by Mr. Rabuka in 1987, was intended for the then coup leader's personal protection. Its members were involved in both the May 19 coup and the November 2 mutiny.

Mr. Rabuka was found inside the barracks at the height of the revolt making soldiers take commands from him. ``Rabuka's words to one of my colonels at the height of the shootings raised my suspicions... he said the Colonel should listen to his instructions. He also criticised my leadership... that's why I said he brought confusion to the camp because his words were confusing and deceiving. A few days later he was on radio supporting my leadership,'' the military commander said.

Role in coup?

Leading personalities in Fiji believe that Mr. Rabuka was behind the May 19 coup as well - in which the elected Government of Mr. Mahendra Chaudhury was overthrown. Now come the charges from within the military that Mr. Rabuka was behind this month's bloody mutiny as well.

As Commodore Bainimarama and the men loyal to him probably understand, that this sniping game in Fiji has not ended. The military command will have to go all out to cleanse those undisciplined soldiers who have mutinied or supported George Speight. There can be no return to democracy (elections are said to be 18 months away) without a stable military command. Even today, the real power behind the Laisenia Qarase interim administration is the Army.

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