Tuesday, June 6, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Speight threatens to kill hostages

SUVA, June 5 (AFP) — Fiji coup leader George Speight warned today he would shoot his 31 hostages, including Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, if the military attempted to force its way into parliament where they were being held.

“I will wait here for as long as I have to,” Mr Speight told reporters in the besieged complex.

Fiji’s martial law rulers today toughened their attitude towards the coup plotters holding Mr Chaudhry and 31 politicians hostage, after the European Union explicitly threatened the Pacific nation’s economic survival.

Martial law head Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama said Mr Speight was making “impossible” demands and that talks had reached a stalemate.

With the support of a small military squad, the bankrupt businessman stormed the building on May 19, and overthrew the elected government led by Fiji’s first ethnic Indian premier.

He claimed to be acting in the name of indigenous Fijians, who make up about 51 per cent of the 800,000 population of the South Pacific nation.

Ethnic Indians account for 43 per cent of the population, but it has become clear that the political crisis is in reality an inter-Fijian power struggle in which Indians are victims.

Mr Speight is demanding an interim civilian administration to replace the military one imposed a week ago after looting and violence broke out in the Capital Suva.

Mr Speight met with Mr Bainimarama yesterday but by the end of the day they were at a deadlock and the military began strengthening their language against him.

“I have been told by the representatives of the European Union that if the name of one of George Speight’s people appear on the list of the interim government, then they will effectively put things in motion which could result in the closure of Fiji’s sugar mills,” Mr Bainimarama said in a statement.

In a television address he said the EU had written saying they would not take any more sugar from Fiji.

The EU buys about 75 per cent of all Fiji’s sugar exports, the country’s main revenue earner, at almost three times the world market price under a special agreement it has with former colonies in the African, Caribbean and Pacific.

Fiji earns about $ 150 million from sugar annually, the bulk of which comes from the EU.

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