Fiji foils 'plot' to kill PM

Police arrest 16 over alleged plot to kill military ruler but opposition cries foul.

    Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup and appointed himself prime minister [Reuters]
    Police said the plot had involved arms and explosives, but Teleni said on Monday that no such weapons had been found.
     
    Still, he said charges were expected on Monday against some of the 16 people arrested over the past two days.
     

    "I cannot speculate ... the exact charges against the suspects as we are currently assessing evidence at hand"

    Esala Teleni, Fiji police commissioner

    "I cannot speculate at this point in time the exact charges against the suspects as we are currently assessing evidence at hand," he said.
     
    "We haven't identified explosives but we've taken all precautionary measures."
     
    Police did not release details of the assassination plot against Frank Bainimarama, the prime minister who took power after leading a coup last year, and opposition politicians said the government was merely trying to tighten its grip on the country.
     
    Teleni said earlier that the alleged plotters included prominent members of political parties who wanted to create instability and conduct insurgent activities in Fiji.
     
    Foreign involvement
     
    On Sunday, he also pointed to possible involvement by "foreign governments" - a reference that was understood to mean Australia and New Zealand - and suggested that money was funnelled to the plotters through non-governmental organisations.
     
    Helen Clark, New Zealand's prime minister, rejected the suggestions as "wild statements", saying: "Of course the New Zealand government hasn't been involved in any such thing."
     
    She added that the government's funding for aid groups in Fiji involved money for building housing.
     
    Clark said she suspected the plot claim was a pretext to round up anyone who opposed Bainimarama's military government.
     
    Neighbouring Australia and New Zealand have been critical of Bainimarama's government, calling for a return to democracy.
     
    Clark said one of those arrested, New Zealand businessman Ballu Khan, had been beaten so badly he was unable to talk and was being detained in a Suva hospital.
     
    A hospital source said Khan had a broken jaw and ribs.
     
    "It's absolutely terrifying. No person should be treated like this," Clark told Radio NZ on Monday.
     
    Bainimarama seized power in a coup on December 5, 2006, claiming the democratically elected government of Laisenia Qarase, the then prime minister, was corrupt and soft on those behind a 2000 coup.
     
    Fiji has had four coups since 1987.
     
    The self-appointed prime minister said in June he was willing to hold elections by early 2009, but many international observers say Fiji is making little movement towards democracy, with the military-backed government firmly in control.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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