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SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 16, 2000 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has blamed in-fighting among the country's chiefs for the nationalist coup in May.

His comments follow an announcement by new President Ratu Iloilo that an inquiry will be held to determine the cause of the coup.

Mahendra Chaudhry, who is on his way to India and Britain to ask for tougher sanctions against the interim government, says chiefly politics is responsible.

"It was actually a fight between the different confederacies in Fijian society.

"And so it (was) compounded by that fact and also the kind of violence that was unleashed on the Indo-Fijian community.

"That has sent very wrong signals and I think has shattered and shaken the faith of the Indian community in the country.

"(In) reality the Indians were the economic engine of the nation and I think this will have a very telling effect on the economy. "

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.



SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 15, 2000 – Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji’s Citizens Constitutional Forum today welcomed the call by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo for a board of inquiry to investigate the May insurrection, but warned against any "cosmetic gesture."

The timing of the President’s call coincided with a three-day fact-finding mission to Fiji by the European Union, which began yesterday.

The forum had earlier called for an investigation into interim Information Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola’s alleged role in the overthrow of the elected government.

Kubuabola described the claims of his involvement as a "baseless personal attack" in a letter published today in the Fiji Times.

The Fiji Times reported that the President would appoint a board of inquiry into the crisis which would investigate why the country’s security forces allowed the coup to happen.

According to the newspaper, the board "will establish the real motives behind the coup and ensure that a strategy for better security and intelligence is implemented to avoid any such occurrence in future."

In a statement today by the forum’s executive director, Rev. Akuila Yabaki said: "The inquiry will depend for its international credibility, on its independence and in-built measures of transparency.

"An independent inquiry cannot be achieved if the membership is made up of institutions such as the military and the police, since senior members of these institutions were themselves implicated in the events leading up to the May 19 coup and its aftermath.

"You can’t have the ‘poacher turned game-keeper’ carrying out an investigation and expect the outcome to pass the test of transparency."

Rev. Yabaki suggested that the Ombudsman, Justice Sailosi Kepa, could be a member -- or even head the investigation.

Justice Kepa’s statement was one of the first denouncing the coup.

One or two local and international lawyers should be invited to be members, said Rev. Yabaki.

A civil society representative should also be invited.

"The investigation must be independent and also transparent for all to believe that it is an authentic attempt to deal with the national tragedy," said Rev. Yabaki.

In a submission to the fact-finding mission yesterday, the Fiji Council of Social Services director Hasan Khan said the takeover of government by armed rebels was an act on behalf of "defeated politicians, failed business people and the corrupt rich."

He asked the delegation to recommend to the EU that assistance be directed through civil society organizations and its umbrella group FCSS.

"To date there has been no announcement by the government or anyone on how victims of violence and terror would be helped or compensated," Khan said.

He added that the 1997 constitution was the ideal framework for future economic, social and general well being of all Fiji citizens.

Title -- 2899 FIJI: Citizens forum cautious over President’s gesture Date -- 15 August 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- PN, 15/8/00 Copyright – PN Status -- Unabridged

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