FIJI COUP LEADER REACTS TO CHIEFS’ BACKING OF MARA

INDIA STEPS UP DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS OVER FIJI COUP  

NEW DELHI, India (May 24, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The Indian government says a concerted international effort is needed to help secure the release of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, who has been held hostage at the Fiji Parliament with others since Friday. 

Indian relatives of Mr. Chaudhry met Prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in New Delhi, and urged him to intervene to help end the crisis. 

After the meeting, the Indian Foreign Ministry said Mr. Vajpayee assured the relatives that India will assist. 

 

MALAYSIA'S PM SAYS FIJI COUP BID WAS BOUND TO HAPPEN  

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (May 24, 2000 – Radio Australia)---Malaysia's Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, has described the attempted coup in Fiji as regrettable, but almost inevitable. 

Dr. Mahathir was quoted by the official Bernama news agency as saying such things would continue to occur unless there was a strong program to improve the economic status of indigenous Fijians. 

The Malaysian leader said the situation in Fiji is much more difficult because the disparity is very great.

 

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 24, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The coup leader in Fiji, George Speight, has given his first response to the decision by the country's traditional chiefs to back President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

In a statement released in Parliament House, where he continues to hold Prime Minister Chaudhry and others hostage, Mr. Speight said Ratu Mara preferred a confrontational stance.

He said Ratu Mara was more concerned about his monopoly over power in Fiji and preserving his international image.

From Suva, here's Radio Australia correspondent Peter Cave:

"In his release Mr. Speight says the position the Chiefs have taken on the events of Friday the 19th is a real test of their wisdom and their true relationship with the people.

"He fears that Ratu Mara may have misled the Great Council of Chiefs with misinformation and given the wrong impression of the reality of the situation in Fiji today.

"He says Ratu Mara is deliberately using mass propaganda and lobbying to mislead the chiefs and the country on the reality of how the common man feels and what they believe.

"Peter Cave, Suva."

 

FIJI COUP LEADER DISAPPOINTED WITH CHIEFS' RESPONSE 

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 24, 2000 – Radio Australia)---Coup leader George Speight says he's disappointed with the Great Council of Chiefs' decision to back President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara during the continuing political hostage crisis. 

But he says the chiefs have yet to hear his arguments for the total abolition of the 1997 constitution, which brought Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's Indian-led coalition to power last year. 

Those arguments will be presented to them later today. 

Earlier, Mr. Speight issued a statement attacking Ratu Mara, accusing the President of wanting to preserve what he termed his monopoly over power in Fiji. 

He also said the President had used propaganda to mislead the chiefs on the reality of how the common people felt. 

 

GREAT COUNCIL OF CHIEFS PONDER OPTIONS  

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 24, 2000 – Radio Australia)---As the Great Council of Chiefs prepares to continue its deliberations later today, Chairman Sitiveni Rabuka has said Fiji can expect an international backlash if it does not find a constitutional resolution to the continuing crisis. 

Among the options, Mr. Rabuka says President Mara can ask Mahendra Chaudhry to stand down as Prime Minister, or to call new elections. 

“Those are the constitutionally sustainable moves that can take place.  Failing that whatever we take we should be expecting backlash and trade difficulties and aid difficulties from our traditional partners,” Mr. Rabuka said. 

Also later today, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, and UN envoy Sergio Viera de Mello are expected to hold talks in Suva on the political crisis. 

Mr. McKinnon said he hopes to bring influence to bear on Fiji to stay with its democratically elected government. 

“Certainly within the Commonwealth there's a real reluctance for people to accept being expelled from the Commonwealth, let alone suspended from the Commonwealth.  So it's more influence than power and we certainly would wish the people of Fiji to say quite emphatically they do want to stay with the Constitution,” Mr. McKinnon said.

 

U.S. REMAINS COY ON FUTURE OF FIJI GOVERNMENT 

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 23, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The United States is remaining cautious regarding its position on the situation in Fiji. 

A State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher, says Washington continues to demand the release of Fiji's Prime Minister and other top officials being held hostage in Parliament. 

But, he would not say whether the United States is insisting that Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry be restored to office once the crisis has ended. 

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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