Restoration of democracy after Fiji coup may take 2 years

Promised elections to restore democracy to Fiji after this week's coup could be two years away, the military-installed prime minister said Thursday.

The comments by military medic Dr. Jona Senilagakali who said he only took the job of prime minister because he was ordered to do so by his commanding officer came as Fiji's powerful tribal chiefs refused to recognize the new regime.

The chiefs' criticism of Commander Frank Bainimarama's takeover on Tuesday is important because of their huge influence among the Fiji's politically dominant indigenous majority.

Bainimarama continued a clean-out of the civil service on Thursday, announcing that the elections commissioner and the chief of the Public Service Commission had been fired, as well as parliamentary officials and other senior bureaucrats.

He said the sackings were part of a campaign to weed out corruption he alleged was rife under ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase one of several reasons Bainimarama has given for the takeover.

Bainimarama has said a military council will rule until he can appoint an interim government that will eventually call elections to restore democracy.

Senilagakali, who is Bainimarama's only appointment so far, said Thursday the timing of the elections would "totally be up to the military president."

"Hopefully in 12 months, two years, we'll be able to have a general election," he said, reports AP.

Contradicting his leader's claims to working within the Constitution, Senilagakali told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, "There's no doubt about it, it's an illegal takeover."

"It is an illegal takeover to clean up the mess of a much bigger illegal activity of the previous government," he said, blaming Qarase for stirring hatred within Fijian society by putting "too much emphasis on indigenous Fijian interests."

The coup Fiji's fourth in nearly two decades was the culmination of a long impasse between Bainimarama and Qarase over bills offering pardons to conspirators in a 2000 coup and handing lucrative coastal land ownership to indigenous Fijians.

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