PEOPLE'S COALITION GOVERNMENT

FIJI ISLANDS

PRESS STATEMENT July 4, 2000

The People's Coalition strongly opposes the announcement of a civilian interim government by the Commander of the Fiji Military Forces. We believe that this move serves neither the objective of securing the safe and immediate release of the hostages, nor the objective of a return to constitutional and democratic government.

Quite the reverse, this ill-advised move could jeopardize the safety of the hostages and compromise their safe release in the near future. It also runs contrary to the call of the nation and civil society for a political settlement that is within the framework of the 1997 Constitution.

Such calls have been made by a diverse range of organizations including the Fiji Employers Federation, the Fiji-Australia Business Council, the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Citizens Constitutional Forum, the National Council of Women, the Fiji Trades Union Congress and the Fiji Women's Rights Movement.

The People's Coalition believes that the safe, immediate and unconditional release of the hostages should have been the paramount concern and priority of the military. Unfortunately, the military blatantly failed, from the outset, to deal professionally with the May 19th crisis as a terrorist, hostage-taking situation. Instead it entered into political horse-trading with Mr. Speight and his terrorist group, thereby undermining the chances of a swift and peaceful resolution to the hostage crisis.

The People's Coalition believes that the appointment of an interim administration is an unnecessary, undemocratic and unconstitutional option that will compromise efforts to ensure a return to democratic and constitutional government in our beloved country.

The military is well aware of other constitutionally sanctioned alternatives to the appointment of an administration comprised of people with no mandate from the people, moral authority or political legitimacy. These options include the obvious one of the reinstatement of the elected government or an interim administration drawn from members of all political parties represented in the existing Parliament.

We believe that the appointment of a civilian government by the Commander completes the coup against the democratically elected People's Coalition Government. It raises serious doubts about the sincerity of the military's declared purpose of restoring law and order when it intervened on 29th May.

In fact, the various steps taken by the military since the declaration of martial law have taken us further away from releasing the hostages and restoring constitutional government, and closer towards giving in to all the demands of Speight and his terrorist group.

In particular, the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution was a core demand of the Speight group, which was conceded by the military even though it was of no relevance to the declared mission of restoring law and order. Now, the appointment of a military-sponsored civilian government charged with reviewing the 1997 Constitution completes this process of capitulation to the principal demands of the terrorists.

The People's Coalition insists that the military has demonstrated through its successive actions that it is fully complicit, and indeed an active player, in the unlawful overthrow of a democratically elected Government and the abrogation of the country's Constitution.

We call upon those who have accepted positions within the military-appointed government to be mindful of the implications and likely consequences of their participation in an unlawful, undemocratic and unconstitutional administration that is tantamount to a military dictatorship.

Hon. Pratap Chand Minister for Education & Official Spokesperson People's Coalition Government 

Hon. Dr. Isimeli Cokanasiga Minister for Health &  Acting Leader Fijian Association Party

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