FIJI PRESIDENT MARA APPEALS FOR NEW NATIONAL BEGINNING

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 4, 1999 - Radio Australia)---Fiji's President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara says it's time for a new beginning for Fiji -- for the letting go of old habits, animosities and outdated nationalism.

As Radio Australia correspondent Karan Pillay reports from Suva, the comments came in the President's special New Year's address.

"The President says it's time for forgiveness and reconciliation in Fiji. Strident rhetoric for political expediency, he says, has no place in Fiji society.

"Ratu Sir Kamisese believes Fiji can only progress unimpeded as a nation if all citizens can approach problems with moderation and patience, and with a determination to seek amicable solutions through dialogue and consensus.

"His address also touched on 1999 being declared the International Year of Older Persons. Fiji, he said, must ensure that the rights of the elderly are guaranteed.

"Meanwhile, the President said he was disturbed by the desecration of places of worships last year, particularly of Indian temples around Fiji, describing them as acts which violate basic human rights.

"Karan Pillay, Suva."

FIJI’S CHALLENGE IS TO BUILD ON WHAT IT HAS ACHIEVED: PRIME MINISTER RABUKA

SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 3, 1999 - Radio Australia)---Fiji's Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, said in his New Year's message that 1999 will be a year of challenge.

This challenge, he said, will be building further on what Fiji has achieved over the past few years, particularly on the new Constitution that came into effect last year.

Radio Australia correspondent Karan Pillay reports from Suva.

"Prime Minister Rabuka agrees that 1998 has been one of the most difficult years in Fiji's history. Fiji devalued its currency by 20-percent in the face of the economic crisis in Asia and suffered one of the worst droughts in many years, which severely depleted its sugar exports.

"But Prime Minister Rabuka remains optimistic. ‘We have a lot of untapped resources on the land,’ he said, ‘and in the entrepreneurial and other capacities of our people. We are going to harness these, so we can put Fiji back on the path of economic development and economic growth by the middle of 1999.’

"Mr. Rabuka also hopes that all Fiji Islanders will continue to build on the consensus achievements of 1998. He believes Fiji can overcome the challenges and risks of the New Year. But what is needed, he said, is a commitment by everyone to relate to one another with respect, understanding and compassion.

"Karan Pillay, Suva."

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