Updated: 03/06/2014 09:11 | By Agence France-Presse

New Fiji army chief wants to end coup culture

Fiji's new army commander said Thursday that he wanted to end the Pacific nation's coup culture, but defended the military's role in ousting the last democratically-elected government in 2006.


New Fiji army chief wants to end coup culture

Fiji strongman Voreqe Bainimarama (L) is saluted by Mosese Tikoitoga (R), the new commander of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces, at a ceremony in Suva on March 5, 2014 - by Joshua Kuku

Brigadier-General Mosese Tikoitoga became Fiji's military chief on Wednesday after his predecessor Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized power in a bloodless coup eight years ago, relinquished command to pursue a career in politics.

Tikoitoga said the military, which was involved in four coups between 1987 and 2006, was sworn to uphold a new constitution that was put in place last year ahead of elections scheduled for September.

He said the military would respect the result of September's election regardless of who won.

"The constitution is in place and the constitution is the document that will certify the operations of Bainimarama and all his past colleagues," Tikoitoga told Radio New Zealand.

"The military does not want any more coups."

However, Tikoitoga insisted the last coup in 2006 was necessary and had laid the groundwork for a constitution which promotes equality by guaranteeing one person, one vote.

"We did it for a reason and the reason, we still think, was noble," he said. "We will always think that we did a great service to the country by doing what we did."

When Bainimarama took power, he said Fiji needed to root out corruption and end racial inequalities between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians descended from sugar plantation labourers shipped in by the British during the colonial era.

Tikoitoga said he was aware there was a distinction between the role of the military and that of the police in maintaining order in Fiji.

"(When) we have a properly elected government in September all that will be put back in place," he said.

Asked whether he wanted to restore defence ties with Australia and New Zealand -- the country's major allies before the coup prompted them to sever diplomatic links -- Tikoitoga said it was up to Canberra and Wellington to make the first moves.

"It was them that stopped the relationship, so I think the onus is on them to restore it," he said.

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