Fiji military warns govt against 'sweeping changes' after tight election

SYDNEY, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Fiji's military chief warned lawmakers on Tuesday against making "sweeping changes" less than a month after contested elections that removed the government of Frank Bainimarama, who ruled the Pacific island for 16 years after taking power in a coup.

Fiji has a history of military coups, including two staged by current Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987. Rabuka became Prime Minister on Dec. 24 after a coalition of parties narrowly voted to install him as leader of the strategically important Pacific nation.

On Tuesday, Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) commander Major General Jone Kalouniwai said the military would "like to raise its concerns with regards to the sweeping changes of the current government to establish a firm transition of power and democratic control as the government of the day."

Kalouniwai's statement, reported in local media, does not mention any specific issues with the government but does say unidentified "changes are creating shortcuts that circumvent the relevant processes and procedures."

"The RFMF believes that trying and failing to democratize in adverse circumstances has the potential to bring about fateful, long-term national security consequences," Kalouniwai said.

The Fiji Prime Minister's office did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment. Fiji's military also could not be immediately reached by Reuters.

(Reporting by Lewis Jackson and Kirsty Needham; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

((lewis.jackson@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: @lewjackk))

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