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Fiji Times Suva, Fiji Islands

May 25, 2000

When a group of gunmen led by George Speight stormed Parliament and took hostage our elected representatives, we stated that we believed it was in Fiji's best interest for the People’s Coalition to be restored to power.

We strongly abhorred -- and still do -- the illegal act by a group of gunmen who, in one moment of madness, destroyed the democratic principles everyone had worked so hard for in the 1997 Constitution.

Today, no matter how you look at it, the damage has been done. The event cannot be reversed, much as we would want it to.

Now, the immediate task at hand is to find an effective solution that is still in the best interest of Fiji -- and not necessarily the international community at large.

Seven days after the event unfolded, it is clear that this solution is no longer the return of the People's Coalition to power. As much as we are aware of the backlash from the international community, the solution to our problem lies with us.

We may initially lose some friends and make some sacrifices as far as trade and aid are concerned, but it is apparent that the solution will require elements that are a unique part of the Fijian way of life.

In that context, the state of emergency declared by the President, and the resolutions by the Great Council of Chiefs, are designed to save Fiji and its people from a worsening crisis. And more importantly, the lives of the people held hostage, including Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry.

The chiefs have outlined what they think is best to resolve the crisis. Many will argue that Speight has been given too much. Why should he be pardoned? Why should he have a role in the running of the country?

Whatever happens, Mr. Chaudhry must step down. No one should have to endure what he and his colleagues have been through this past week. However, he must accept responsibility for the role he has played in the lead up to the crisis.

No doubt there are questions hanging over the legality of the decisions - and these will have to be sorted out by the legal experts. What we need to do now is to find what's best and the least damaging of the unenviable alternatives we face. We must also avoid signaling that it is acceptable any time for anyone with a gripe against the Government to forcefully – as George Speight has done - change the mandate of the voters in a democratically held election.

At the end of the day, the serious question we ask ourselves today is what sort of future do we want.

The answer certainly will not be found in any further violence.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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