November 13, 2012

Fiji president sworn in for second term

From: AAP November 12, 2012 4:43PM

FIJI'S military government has appointed President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau to a second three-year term as the coup-plagued South Pacific nation's head of state.

At a ceremony on Monday attended by Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who seized power in 2006, Nailatikau, 71, was sworn in as president until 2015 under an executive decree issued by the military government.

The appointment, announced on the government's website, means Nailatikau, a former army commander credited with guiding Bainimarama through his military career, will be president when Fiji holds long-awaited elections set for 2014.

The largely ceremonial role of president was traditionally appointed by Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs, which Bainimarama suspended after taking power in 2006 and eventually abolished earlier this year.

Fiji is preparing a new constitution after experiencing four coups since 1987, largely stemming from tensions between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians descended from labourers brought in by the British in the colonial era.

Bainimarama tore up Fiji's previous constitution and replaced all judges with hand-picked officials in 2009, after a court ruled his coup was illegal.

He has said the new constitution will enshrine principles such as one-person-one-vote, an independent judiciary and transparent governance, as well as concentrating on establishing a secular, corruption-free state.

He reneged on a pledge to hold elections in 2009, saying Fiji was not yet ready for democracy, resulting in the country's suspension from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum.

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