Fiji coup leader runs want ads to fill Cabinet posts for new government

SUVA, Fiji -- Fiji's coup leader ran want ads in local newspapers Saturday to fill vacant Cabinet jobs, trying to piece together a new government for the south Pacific country.

Army chief Frank Bainimarama has removed a swathe of senior civil servants, including top police officers, saying he is weeding out corruption entrenched in the administration of ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

"Applicants must be of outstanding character and without any criminal records," the advertisements noted, asking aspirants to submit applications at military headquarters by Tuesday. "Each must not have been declared bankrupt."

"The deadline indicates the urgency in trying to get qualified people in to help in the running of the affairs of the state," Maj. Neumi Leweni, a military spokesman, told state-owned Fiji One News television.

He added that the posts of finance and foreign affairs ministers would not be advertised.

Bainimarama's hand-picked interim leader, Maj. Jona Senilagakali, took over the prime minister's office for the first time Friday, arriving with an armed military guard. Some top government officials have been reappointed, the Fiji Times newspapers reported, including the chief executive officers for tourism and agriculture.

An aide for Qarase, meanwhile, said the ousted prime minister would return to the capital of Suva within days despite the risk of arrest.

"We know we will have a reception party at the other end," Sakeasi Ditoka told The Associated Press, referring to troops Qarase expects to meet him at Suva's airport.

"We know what's going to happen. But we need to come back for everybody's sake," Ditoka said. "The people want their leader among them."

Qarase fled the capital to his home island in the Pacific archipelago's north after Bainimarama seized power Tuesday and declared himself president.

Bainimarama has received signs of support from a key opposition leader and the country's powerful tribal chiefs, but has faced a wave of international repudiation.

The 53-nation British Commonwealth suspended Fiji on Friday, a decision Leweni said had been expected. It was the third time in 20 years that the Commonwealth suspended the country following a coup.

Qarase told Australia's Nine Network television the decision was "a very positive move." The U.N. Security Council and the European Union have also condemned the coup -- Fiji's fourth in nearly two decades.

The coup was the culmination of a long impasse between Bainimarama and Qarase over legislation offering pardons to conspirators in a 2000 coup and handing lucrative coastal land ownership to indigenous Fijians. Bainimarama said the bills were racist.