SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 4, 2000 - Radio Fiji/PINA Nius Online)---The Fiji Military Forces camp in the northern town of Labasa has been taken over by supporters of rebel leader George Speight, Radio Fiji reported this afternoon.

It said the commanding officer at the camp had been replaced by soldiers who support Speight.

In Suva, Fiji Military Forces spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini said they could not comment until they get more information.

Labasa is the main center on Fiji's second largest island, Vanua Levu, and is an important sugar mill town.



SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 4, 2000 - Radio Fiji/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji's newly appointed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase took oath this morning at the army's Queen Elizabeth Barracks, along with 16 members of the Cabinet and one assistant member of government.

Radio Fiji reports this afternoon that the government's two priorities will be the constitutional review and to get Fiji's economy back on track as soon as possible. Mr. Qarase said he accepted the position not for personal gain, but as a call to national duty. He said that anyone who had the interests of the nation at heart should come forward, as the recovery of the country is for the benefit of all.

Noting the importance of strengthening Fiji's economy, Mr. Qarase - a banker and former senator - announced that a mini-budget would be announced shortly.

"The worst economic outcome can be avoided if the economy can get moving quickly," Mr. Qarase told a press conference.

Mr. Qarase said that without confidence in Fiji, tourists will not come, investors will not invest, and consumers will not buy Fiji goods. He said his government's priority will be to return Fiji to a constitutional government, and stressed that Fiji's economic upturn will only come with the release of the hostages.

"To hostage takers, I would like to counsel them, trust not in your own righteousness but in all mighty God," Mr. Qarase said.

In response to the military's announcement late yesterday, Mr. Speight said his group does not recognize the new government, and the military's moves have not deterred them from their objectives, and the goals of the coup. Mr. Speight said the announcement of the interim civilian government goes against the "spirit of reconciliation," and said that the military seemed to have forgotten that he still held the hostages.

"We think what they have done is out of desperation, but we will take each day at a time. It doesn't bother us that they have appointed these people, but for the military to call a government . . .that was not the objective of the coup," Mr. Speight told a press gathering.

Radio Fiji reports that Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, called the newly appointed government "a step forward," though not a giant step. Australia still maintains that the only acceptable alternative is the restoration of the democratically elected government.



By Margaret Wise

SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 4, 2000 - The Fiji Times/PINA NIUS Online)---An interim Cabinet to be sworn in today will initiate a Constitution review process that will focus on the promotion and protection of indigenous rights.

Headed by banker and former Senator Laisenia Qarase, the interim administration will be tasked with preparing a draft terms of reference for such a review and propose membership for a Constitution Commission.

These will then be referred to the Great Council of Chiefs for their consideration and endorsement.

The review will also examine constituency boundaries and recommend the best or most acceptable voting system.

On land matters, it will determine and recommend how landowners could have an equitable share of royalties and other monies paid to the State in respect of mineral extracted form their land.

The same consideration will be given to owners of customary fishing rights.

In announcing the 19 member line-up yesterday, army commander Commodore Voreque Bainimarama, said the review will also look into affirmative action and social justice programs for Fijians, particularly in the fields of business and commerce and education.

Social justice programs will be aimed at bringing making education, land and housing and commerce at all levels, accessible to disadvantaged Fijians.

Commodore Bainimarama said the Malaysian Constitution could be looked at as a model for the protection and facilitation of Fijian participation in businesses.

"If we are to build a secure foundation for living harmoniously as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society, it is in all our collective national interest to support national measures to promote the economic and social advancement and participation of indigenous Fijians," he said.

But he said priority attention will also be given to the improvement of Government services like welfare support, health, education and rural and community developments.

The interim administration, which will govern for 18 months, will also be responsible for the rehabilitation of the national economy.

The military will hold on to executive authority and will be directly responsible for national security.

Commodore Bainimarama said a President will be appointed on the recommendation of the GCC, which will only meet when the hostages have been released, weapons returned and the situation returns to normal. Amnesty to Speight and his group will also be granted only after these conditions have been met.

Commodore Bainimarama said there was no reason why the rebels should continue to hold on to the 27 hostages.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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