FIJI ISLANDS INDIAN SUMMIT REJECTS CONSTITUTION REVIEW

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 10, 2000 - Fiji's Daily Post/ The Sunday Times/ FM96/PINA Nius Online)---A firm move towards Indian unity in Fiji was on show yesterday as elders unanimously agreed to resist any moves towards a review of the constitution, The Sunday Times reported today.

The summit by Indian politicians, businessmen and individuals at the Skylodge Hotel in Nadi resolved to boycott any attempts to aid or join the constitution review committee named by the indigenous Fijian Great Council of Chiefs, the newspaper said.

The interim government has said it will invite other members of the Indian community to participate in the drafting of a new constitution should the two main Indian political parties not accept their invitations to take part.

The Great Council of Chiefs has approved the setting up of a multiracial committee to review the constitution following the May 19 coup by indigenous Fijian gunmen. It led to the deposing of the Fiji Labour Party-led coalition government headed by Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister.

A government statement said: "The invitations were given in good faith in the hope the two parties which represent the Indian community would help the interim administration address the concerns of Fijians."

The Sunday Times said Indian leaders from the rival Fiji Labour Party and National Federation Party sat around the same table to discuss the future of their people.

A statement said: "This summit is of the belief that no useful purpose would be served as far as Fiji Indian participation is concerned in the proposed constitution commission since the whole process appears to be a fait accompli."

The army's commanding officer in the west of Fiji's main island, Viti Levu, Lieutenant Colonel Henry Manulevu, had earlier said that the meeting would be stopped, the Sunday Times said.

Initially two police special branch officers and army personnel were not allowed into the meeting along with reporters.

The police officers told the organizers that if the meeting was to proceed they should sit in, the Sunday Times said. This was later agreed on.

The summit unanimously agreed that any amendments to the 1997 constitution be made in accordance with the procedure provided by it.

It was also agreed that the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, should reconstitute a Government of National Unity comprising members of Parliament who had been in office before the May 19 coup.

In other developments:

* Fiji's Daily Post reported Information Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said the reconciliation process will not be possible if citizens of this country do not achieve understanding through better communication.

He made the comments when he commissioned Vodafone's 60th base station, at Korovou, Tailevu. "The communication revolution has completely re-shaped our environment," Ratu Inoke said.

"The fundamental challenge we now face affects humans," Ratu Inoke said. "Therefore it is more important than ever for different individuals, different communities and cultures to share information, exchange point of views and communicate."

He said the Korovou base station is another landmark in the history of telephony and more recently, the networking of cell phones in Fiji. He said he was impressed with Vodafone's network of 60 base stations, which provides state of the art technology in Fiji.

"Today, access to communication and mobile telephony has become as important for investors as raw material and energy and labor.

"This is why events like today are shining examples of the welcome that Fiji has to offer potential investors," he said. He said that it is the objective of the interim administration to provide incentives for development, which in turn helps to stimulate the economy.

"An important objective of the Interim Administration is to help indigenous Fijians by encouraging investment in business enterprises, including the provision of education," he said.

* FM96 reported the FM96, Navtarang and Viti FM School of Hope Appeal yesterday collected more than F$ 60,000 (US$ 27,600). All funds collected will be directed to the Save the Children Fund. It will then distribute the money to help children who don't have school fees, bus fares or lunches.

More than 7,000 people have lost their jobs in the crisis that followed the May 19 coup.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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