$200 MILLION EUROPEAN SUGAR LOSS LOOMS, COMMONWEALTH SUSPENDS FIJI

SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 7, 2000 - The Fiji Times, Fiji's Daily Post, FM96, Radio Fiji/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji stands to lose close to $200 million in revenue if the European Union blacklists the country's vital sugar exports, The Fiji Times reported today.

It came on the 20th day of the Fiji crisis and as Radio Fiji and FM96 reported the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting in London suspended Fiji from the "councils of the Commonwealth." But it stopped short of full suspension and sanctions.

The Fiji Times quoted Fiji Sugar Corporation board chairperson Hafiz Khan as saying Europe is Fiji's main sugar market. The price of sugar offered in this market is four times that of sugar sold on the open market, Mr. Khan said.

On Monday, Fiji Military Forces commander Commodore Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama warned of dire consequences for Fiji's sugar should attempted coup leader George Speight and his men be included in any interim administration. Commodore Bainimarama said if the European Union imposed sanctions because of this Fiji's four sugar mills would be closed.

On May 19, Suva businessman George Speight and armed indigenous Fijian supporters took over Parliament in suburban Suva and seized Chaudhry, the country's first ethnic Indian Prime Minister, and members of his government. Speight's group, which includes some soldiers, continues to hold Chaudhry and the parliamentarians hostage inside the complex.

Last week, amidst growing lawlessness, the military approached the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, through traditional Fijian protocol and asked him to step aside and allow the military to take over and restore normalcy. Bainimarama now heads a military government.

Fiji's Daily Post reported hundreds of garment workers will be laid off within the next two weeks as a result of international sanctions requested by the Fiji Trades Union Congress.

The Fiji Times today quoted Speight as saying he would remain at the parliamentary complex for as long as it took to his achieve his objectives of Fijian political paramountcy.

When asked about people losing their jobs, Speight said he felt for them. But The Fiji Times quoted him as saying: "It affects our Fijian people as well, not just Indians."

Speight told The Fiji Times the military is isolating him, trying to dilute his support and isolate the local media from him.

Fiji's Daily Post quoted Speight as assuring the public of its safety and condemning rumors yesterday that his group would cause violence in the streets of the capital.

He asked the business community to go on with their business "as we have no intention of harming them."

The Daily Post reported he said incidents more than a week ago in which his armed supporters shot and killed a policeman, and wounded two soldiers and an overseas journalist will not happen again.

"If I was a violent man Mahendra Chaudhry would not be alive today," The Post quoted him as saying.

The commanding officer of the Third Battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Viliame Seruvakula, said armed soldiers will continue to man checkpoints around Suva to ensure people's safety and see that law and order is maintained, the Daily Post said.

The following is a summary of comments by Commodore Bainimarama at a news conference:

* There's been a suspension in talks with Speight and his men.

* They keep coming up with new demands which have been unacceptable to the RFMF.

* We had planned on the release of hostages and return of all arms to RFMF barracks because they may be used for illegal purposes and in return we'll grant them amnesty.

* We've taken the concerns they've raised in doing what they did in ousting Chaudhry. Those concerns, as well as concerns of the indigenous Fijians and the community at large, will be raised in the new Constitution.

* There's a group of senior officers who are already dealing with these issues so there's really no need for them to have representation in the interim government or to continue the fight.

* Want to clarify a statement made by Speight's camp that we came in because want to be the government. We came in to bring back stability into the country.

* We don't want to be the government.

* They keep telling us to call the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) and hand over the executive authority to the GCC. I keep telling them that I'll inform the GCC in good time once stability returns. That's the mandate we've given ourselves and I think a mandate the people expect of us (RFMF) to bring back stability.

* GCC met last week and came up with resolutions. Those resolutions weren't followed by Speight and his men that's why we're in the position we're in now.

* Now they have the gall to come back and tell us to call the GCC to decide. The GCC consists of our chiefs; it's not a village council meeting we call at the whim of anyone at any time.

* There are other reasons why Speight and his men shouldn't be the government of the day. I've received correspondence from the EU saying that if one of Speight's men is included in the interim government, sugar deals will be suspended.

* On whether the military will go in? There will be no military solution.

* We cannot accept any more demands.

* We intend to take Fiji through and ensure that peace reigns and hopefully that within three months we elect an interim government and an interim Prime Minister who will take us towards the new Constitution and election.

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

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