Fiji’s coup leader and interim president says he will boycott a meeting with the country’s powerful Great Council of Chiefs intended to find a way to restore a legal government.
Commodore Frank Bainimarama took the title of interim president after toppling the government of Laisenia Qarase, the prime minister, on December 5.
Bainimarama said on Tuesday he would not attend because he was invited as army commander rather than interim president.
"I won’t attend, as I have better things to do," he said.
The chiefs hold constitutional power to appoint the president and have large influence among Fijians.
Bainimarama wants the council to reappoint Ratu Josefa Iloilo as president to kickstart the process of naming an interim government, but the chiefs have refused to recognise Bainimarama’s interim government as legal rulers of the country.
Last week Bainimarama escalated the standoff with the chiefs, when he said the military could rule in Fiji for another 50 years if the council failed to recognise his interim government.
Qarase will also not attend the meeting because Bainimarama has ordered domestic transportation services not to allow him passage from his home in the remote Lau group of islands to the capital Suva, from which he has been banned since December 6.
The former prime minister has urged Fijians to protest in peaceful ways to restore democracy.
Bainimarama has promised to restore democracy and said he toppled Qarase's administration to fight corruption and "clean up" the government.
He has not issued a timetable for appointing an interim government.