Fiji suspends police commissioner, ends China policing agreement

Commissioner of Police Sitiveni Qiliho is seen as close to former Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who was in power for 16 years.

Sitiveni Rabuka
Sitiveni Rabuka (centre) has been criticised by the military for the pace of the changes his government has been making [File: Leon Lord/AFP]

Fiji’s new government has suspended the police commissioner and signalled the end of a controversial policing agreement with China.

Elections last year saw the Pacific island nation’s first change of government in 16 years when Sitiveni Rabuka became prime minister on December 24 after a coalition of parties narrowly voted to install him as leader.

His election victory ended the rule of former military chief Frank Bainimarama.

According to a presidential statement on Friday, the Commissioner of Police Brigadier-General Sitiveni Qiliho had been suspended on the advice of the Constitutional Offices Commission, “pending investigation and referral to and appointment of, a tribunal”.

The Supervisor of Elections Mohammed Saneem was also suspended by the commission, the statement added.

Qiliho was seen as being close to Bainimarama.

Fiji has a history of military coups and earlier this month, military chief Major-General Jone Kalouniwai complained about the “ambition and speed” of the changes being made by Rabuka’s government.

The island has become increasingly important in the growing competition for influence in the region between China and the United States. On Thursday, the Fiji Times reported Rabuka’s government planned to end a police training and exchange agreement with China.

In October, Fiji struck a deal with Australia to deepen defence cooperation.

“Our system of democracy and justice systems are different so we will go back to those that have similar systems with us,” Rabuka was quoted as saying on Thursday, referring to Australia and New Zealand.

The prime minister’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Kalouniwai has stressed that Rabuka’s government must abide by a 2013 constitution which gives the military a key role.

Rabuka himself first rose to prominence in politics when he staged a military coup in 1987, claiming that Fijians were losing control of their nation to the descendants of ethnic Indian migrants. He instigated another coup in the same year to depose the leadership he had installed.

After handing power to an interim administration, he remained commander of the army and minister of home affairs.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters