ARMED MEN TAKE OVER FIJI PARLIAMENT

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By Erin Phelan

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 19, 2000 - PINA Nius Online)---Fiji is under civilian rule, after a group of armed men descended upon Parliament, overthrowing the People's Coalition led by Mahendra Chaudhry.

A sign outside Parliament House, reading: "Be Warned Chaudhry: Fiji Indigenous Rights are Paramount in Fiji. We Will Fight to Uphold Them," displays the feeling of the pro-nationalist group that staged the movement.

In a press statement, George Spate, calling himself the leader of the civilian government "that will lead Fiji into the future," said that actions were taken as requested by the indigenous people of Fiji.

"I want to assure the international community, and all communities in Fiji, that the members of government are safe and being held in a safe location."

At this time, former leader of the 1987 coup Sitiveni Rabuka has arrived in Parliament, where government is still being held, apparently to talk to the leaders of the unrest.

The armed men walked into Parliament during morning session, and speaker of the House Dr. Apenisa Kurusaqila could be heard on Fiji Broadcasting Commission live wire saying, "What's this? What's this? This is illegal you know" before radio lines went out.

The overthrow followed a pro-nationalist march through the streets of Suva, calling for an end to the year-old government. Chaudhry's government celebrates its one-year anniversary today. The march was less than peaceful, as many smashed cars were seen along the road leading to Parliament.

Shopkeepers secured their storefronts with aluminum siding and boards, and the city of Suva has been virtually shut down. Very few Indo-Fijian faces can be seen on the streets of Suva at this time.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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