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Fiji military commander declares state of emergency after coup

[JURIST] Fiji [JURIST news archive] military commander Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama [BBC profile] declared a state of emergency Wednesday and appointed a new prime minister and head of police in the South Pacific island nation after overthrowing the government in a military coup [JURIST report] Tuesday. In a statement released over the radio Tuesday evening, Bainimarama dismissed criticism of the coup and vowed that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase [official profile] would not return to power. Qarase is adamant that he is still the legitimate leader of Fiji, despite Bainimarama conducting a ceremony Wednesday to swear in military medic Dr. Jona Senilagakali as the interim prime minister. Bainimarama also said he would develop a complete interim government next week which will be tasked with conducting the country's future elections in an attempt to restore democracy.

The coup was carried out after Qarase refused to stop proposed legislation that would have given coastal land ownership to the indigenous population of Fiji, rather than use it as a region for tourism, and also would have given pardons to individuals who plotted a coup against the government in 2000. Qarase, who claims he is currently under house arrest, has accused Bainimarama of "raping" the country's constitution [text]. The US has joined New Zealand and Australia [JURIST news archive] in objecting to the coup by suspending $2.5 million in assistance to the nation. Tuesday's coup marks the fourth in the nation during the past 14 years. AP has more.

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