Saturday, July 29, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Race-based Fiji govt sworn in
‘Rebel backers find no place

SUVA, July 28 (Reuters) — Fiji today appointed a new interim government without any rebel backers of jailed coup leader George Speight, who caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said no longer posed a threat.

Speight, arrested by the military on Wednesday and facing possible treason charges, had threatened further civil unrest unless his supporters dominated the new government.

Fiji was plunged into political crisis when Speight stormed Parliament in May in the name of indigenous Fijian rights, taking hostages and demanding an end to Indian political power.

President Ratu Josefa Iloilo defied Speight by dropping his four nationalist supporters from an earlier line-up, reappointed Mr Qarase and named Ratu Epeli Nailatikau Deputy Prime Minister.

Speight had publicly opposed both Mr Qarase and Mr Nailatikau.

After being sworn in, Mr Qarase, who said earlier the interim government would rule for three years before new elections, called on all Fijians to end widespread lawlessness.

“The lawlessness that has swept the country must stop,” Mr Qarase said. Asked by reporters if Speight could cause more unrest, Mr Qarase said Speight was “no more a threat”.

“We must promote national reconciliation and healing not only between the Fijians and Indo-Fijians, but also between the Fijians themselves,’’ he said.

Fiji’s military said Mr Qarase would address the concerns of indigenous Fijians over the next three years. Spokesman Lieut-Col Filipo Tarakinikini said a decree allowing the military to crack down on unrest would last another two weeks.

The ousted government of Mr Mahendra Chaudhry rejected the new administration.

Mr Iloilo named a 20-member all-indigenous Fijian Cabinet with one ethnic Indian among eight assistant ministers. Mr Chaudhry’s coalition released a statement saying that it wanted a “government of national unity” made of pre-coup elected MPs put in its place.

“The composition of the interim government is discriminatory,” former Deputy Prime Minister Tupeni Baba said. “It effectively disenfranchises the Indo-Fijian community,’’ he added.

Mr Chaudhry and most of his coalition remain holed up in the rich sugar belt on the west of the main island of Viti Levu.

Mr Qarase said he had approached prominent members of the Indian community to serve in his government but had been turned down because they feared for their safety.

He also warned Mr Chaudhry not to try to take back power. “If they persist with it, they will be dealt with according to law,” he said.


Impose sanctions on Fiji: India

BANGKOK, July 28 (PTI) — India today for the first time asked the international community to impose trade and economic sanctions against Fiji for unlawful abrogation of that country’s constitution and dismissal of the legitimately-elected government of Mahendra Chaudhry. 

“Pressure of full scope trade and economic sanctions is required to quickly reverse the damage which has occurred in Fiji by the unlawful abrogation of the constitution and the dismissal of a legitimately-elected government,” External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh told the day-long ASEAN post ministerial conference here.

This is the first time that New Delhi has sought slapping of sanctions against Fiji since Mr Chaudhry was taken hostage by rebel leader George Speight on May 19 last.

Mr Jaswant Singh said: “Our assessment is that moderate and more rational elements, who constitute the majority in Fiji, may be prepared to accept sacrifices in the short-term in exchange for a secure, non-discriminatory democratic government based on the rule of law”

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