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SUVA, Fiji Islands (June 28, 2000 - USP Journalism Programme/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---"Gutlessness" seems to be a contagious condition among the national leadership in Fiji's current political crisis, says Fiji Times columnist Seona Smiles.

Women have been showing the way to the "grumpy old men of power and privilege" during the crisis by speaking out.

Rebels still hold 27 hostages from the elected government in the national Parliament after almost six weeks.

Smiles, who writes a popular weekly whimsical column in the country's largest newspaper, took a more serious tone in her latest contribution today.

"Perhaps it is catching. Gutlessness, I mean," she wrote.

"Where are the leaders whom we rightfully expect to speak out for decency, if not democracy, in the current situation?"

"Where are the great who should be counseling ‘enough?’ Why is it again that we are all being mucked about by a bald-headed MBA (rebel leader George Speight) whose entrepreneurial muddles are topped by a takeover of a national state, and an aging soldier's (former SAS major Ilisoni Ligairi) British-trained gun games that have found a national cause?

"Ah yes, the hostages. I suspect the real reason the four women hostages were released (last) weekend is not because they were any more ‘tired’ than the men, but because they are stronger and tougher and are getting stronger and tougher support.

"Because the women of this nation had the guts to speak out for them," wrote Smiles, a former information officer for the University of the South Pacific who is now media coordinator for the international women's group DAWN.

"For weeks now, women have been organizing daily vigils for hostages. They have been speaking and making statements, circulating petitions and striving for a return to decency.

"There are also many honorable men who are doing whatever they can to protest.

"But there have been an awful lot of grumpy old men of power and privilege who have done little but pontificate on wrongs and indigenous rights.

"Another form of gutlessness has been to blame everyone from Commonwealth countries to the nurses’ union for what is caused solely by the bald-headed failed businessman.

"But the real gutless wonder is the failure himself. Otherwise, why won’t he let the rest of the hostages go and come out among his people?"

Title -- 2837 FIJI: Comment: Gutless wonders and grumpy old men Date -- 28 June 2000 Byline -- Seona Smiles Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- USP Journalism, 28/6/00 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status – Unabridged

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