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SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 1, 2000 - The Fiji Times, Fiji's Daily Post/PINA Nius Online)---Deposed Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has told Australian journalists he is weak and tires easily after being held captive by Fiji rebels.

Doctors in Fiji have advised him to have a full medical examination in Australia, he said.

Mr. Chaudhry is on a weeklong visit as a guest of the Australian government. He met with Australian Prime Minister John Howard yesterday.

Mr. Chaudhry called for international intervention to ensure the rights of all of Fiji's ethnic groups.

He said: "The only way equal political rights can be granted to all people of Fiji would be through international intervention through organizations like the United Nations and Commonwealth Secretariat, as well as regional groups here in the Pacific."

He said he believes the new constitution Fiji's interim government is working towards will be racially weighted. But he ruled out setting up a government in exile. "We've decided that we will be in the country," he told Australian journalists.

Mr. Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, and members of his government were seized and taken hostage on May 19 by rebel leader George Speight and armed indigenous Fijian supporters. It began more than two months of turmoil.

In other developments yesterday:

* Rebel supporters charged with unlawful assembly began appearing in Suva courts and were released on bail, on the understanding that prison facilities could not accommodate all 387 of them. Those appearing were detained when the army raided their camp last week.

* Fiji Military Forces spokesperson Lieutenant Alipate Mataitini said rebel leaders being held on Nukulau Island off Suva are not likely to be released this week. He said police are continuing investigations and it would then be known what the rebels would be charged with. The group, including Speight, are being housed in tents on the island, normally a park, swimming and picnic spot for Suva people.

* The army regained control of Sukanaivalu Barracks in the main northern town of Labasa after rebel supporters freed it following a move-out ultimatum from the army.

* Interim government Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase reiterated his comments that indigenous Fijian landowners had missed out on benefits from higher sugar prices cane farmers on their land were getting through the Lomé Convention. He said the landowners were only getting unfairly low rentals.

* There were continuing reports of roadblocks and looting and burning of ethnic Indian homes in some rural areas. Fourteen families were reported being held by rebel supporters in the rice-growing area of Dreketi, on Fiji's second biggest island, Vanua Levu. Military spokesperson Major Howard Politini said the army is investigating. Fijian villagers were reported to be providing refuge for Indian neighbors in some areas.

* The interim government warned civil servants not to take part in a national day for law and order, peace and democracy protest being organized for Wednesday by a coalition of organizations.

* A prominent western chief, the Tui Ba, Adi Senimili Cagilaba, said trouble could erupt if some chiefs from the west of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, went ahead with plans to try to set up a western government. These chiefs had met despite a request not to from the president, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, a leading western chief himself. A spokesperson for the chiefs wanting to set up the western government said they have the support of the deposed deputy prime minister, Adi Kuini Speed, who is also a prominent western chief.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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