Friday, November 3, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

2 soldiers killed in Fiji mutiny
Army back in control: Qarase

SUVA, Nov 2 (Reuters) — The Fijian authorities said today that they had wrested control of the country’s main military barracks from rebel troops after two soldiers were killed in eight hours of sporadic gunbattles.

“The army is back in control,” said Laisenia Qarase, who was appointed interim Prime Minister by the military after nationalist rebels staged a coup in May.

However, a Reuters journalist heard sustained gunfire from the hilltop barracks in the Fiji capital Suva minutes after Mr Qarase broadcast his special address to the Pacific island nation. A curfew was imposed in Suva as night fell.

Mr Qarase said the rebel commandos had released five soldiers taken hostage during the mutiny.

“You have my word, justice will be done,” Mr Qarase said.

The rebels were from the same special forces unit as gunmen who stormed parliament on May 19 in the name of indigenous rights, ousting Mr Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji’s first ethnic Indian leader.

Fiji’s ethnic Indians make up about 44 per cent of the 800,000 population and dominate the economy, which was just starting to recover from damage inflicted by the coup. Tourists had started trickling back, lured by cheap holiday deals.

Suva’s Colonial War Memorial Hospital said two regular army soldiers had been killed in the gunbattles and it was treating 10 other wounded soldiers, who had been carried in on the shoulders of their comrades and in the backs of trucks and ambulances.

The rebel special forces troops launched their mutiny at around 0630 IST, storming the armoury at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks.

Military commander Frank Bainimarama fled the barracks through dense bushland about two hours later, surrounded by 12 bodyguards armed with M16 rifles, according to a local reporter.

Later, more than 60 soldiers loyal to Bainimarama battled their way into the barracks. Former Fiji Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka — who led a coup in 1987 — also went in to try to negotiate an end to the rebellion.

“I have advised the mutineers that, if they know the situation is hopeless, to put the white flag up,” Rabuka told Channel Nine television in Australia by telephone. Gunfire almost drowned out former army Colonel Rabuka as he spoke.

Bainimarama, who comes from Fiji’s navy and has struggled to win the full support of the army, later visited the wounded soldiers in hospital. He declined to talk to reporters.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said up to 50 special forces members and regular soldiers were involved in the attempt to take over the barracks.

“The situation is highly volatile now in Suva and we would hope it won’t spread to other parts of the country but one can’t be sure,” Mr Downer told Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio.

“There is a lot of deep division and great bitterness in Fiji about what has happened there since the 19th of May,” he said.

The rest of Fiji was reported to be quiet — including the key town of Labasa on the island of Vanua Levu, where landowners and some military men joined the May revolt.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff said it appeared the mutiny was linked to Bainimarama’s investigation of 150 soldiers for their suspected involvement in the May coup.

The leader of the May coup, George Speight, is on a prison island off Suva awaiting a treason trial.

Eight members of the special forces unit, who were also facing treason charges, were released into military custody last week and local media said they were believed to be among the mutineers.Back


India, USA discuss UN peacekeeping
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, Nov 2 — Enlarging areas of bilateral cooperation, India and the USA today agreed to explore ways for stepping up the role of troop-contributing countries in the United Nations for preparing the mandates and operations of peacekeeping forces.

Officials of the two countries, who met here for the two-day Joint Working Group (JWG) on UN peacekeeping operations meeting, also exchanged views on functional aspects such as command structures, logistic support, training and preparation for effective UN peacekeeping operations.

The two countries also agreed on a range of measures to enhance cooperation between them on UN peacekeeping operations, a spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said here.

The two teams were of the view that UN peacekeeping operations would need to take into account present and future challenges to international peace, order and security, the spokesman said.

The JWG on UN peacekeeping was set up during the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s recent visit to the USA. The scope of these discussions included both civilian, police and military components of peacekeeping operations.

While the US side was led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Organisational Affairs, Mr Leonard R Hawley, the Indian delegation was led by the Joint Secretary (Americas) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Alok Prasad.

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |