Commander's Children Whisked To Safety Amid Unrest

Published: Fri 10 Nov 2000 11:19 AM
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Commander's Children Whisked To Safety Amid Unrest Rumours
* See earlier reports online:
SUVA: Fiji military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama's two children were whisked away from school yesterday by army bodyguards and the armed forces denied any 48-hour curfew amid rumours of major civil unrest in the capital.
The spate of rumours was covered by Fiji Television last night and on the front page of the Fiji Sun today.
According to the Fiji Sun, Commodore Bainimarama's son Meli, who is headboy of Marist Primary School, left classes yesterday morning escorted by three soldiers.
His elder daughter was also removed from St Joseph's Secondary School by armed bodyguards around midday.
Both Commodore Bainiumarama's children have been going to school with at least two personal bodyguards daily since last week's bloody mutiny at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks which claimed the lives of eight soldiers.
The first of the three loyalist soldiers killed at the barracks was given a full military funeral yesterday amid tight security.
Both the Fiji Sun and Fiji Television reported that rumours of unrest had caused parents to panic and collect their children from schools while some people fled the central business district.
Many students at Samabula Primary School were sent home early. Shutters were put around the National Bank plate glass windows.
However, business elsewhere in Suva was normal.
Fiji Retailers Association Ramesh Solanki confirmed that he had heard about reports of unrest in Suva early yesterday morning.
"The police assured us that the reports were just rumours so business went on as usual," he told the Fiji Sun.
Military spokesperson Major Howard Politini said normal security measures were in place and no special security orders had been given.
Commodore Bainimarama, Interim Home Affairs Minister Ratu Talemo Ratakele and Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase attended the funeral service at the Latter Day Saints church in Naulu yesterday for 36-year-old Private Jone Veilewai.
Military bodyguards carried guns around the church for the commander's presence, and Nasinu Cemetery was also heavily guarded by soldiers.
Private Veilewai was the first soldier killed in the mutiny by rebels in the mutiny on November 2.
He was a clerk working in the Force Mobile Reserve orderly room and was reportedly shot in cold blood when the rebels launched their assault.
His widow, Liku Veilewai, said: "I feel bad inside, angry at those who killed him. He was innocent.
"And my son is too young to have to bear this kind of pain. No one had the right to take him away."
The dead soldier had an eight-year-old son, Junior, and a daughter, Melaia.

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