FIJI ARMY DEFENDS ABROGATION OF 1997 CONSTITUTION

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (November 21, 2000 - Radio Australia)---The Fiji army has defended its abrogation of the 1997 constitution, saying it could not stand by and allow people to suffer at the height of country’s civil unrest after the May coup.

The explanation follows a high court ruling that abrogation of the constitution was unlawful, a ruling the military plans to appeal.

As Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports from Suva, the military’s legal adviser, Colonel Etueni Caucau, said the army was trying to act in the best interests of Fiji.

"Colonel Caucau said before the military abrogated the 1997 constitution on the 29th of May, it had considered the fact that the Great Council of Chiefs submitted their ten submissions.

"He said they, among other things, included the review of the 1997 Constitution, George Speight and his group’s demand highlighting the abrogation of the 1997 constitution and above all, the lives of those being held hostage.

"The military said what concerned them most was the lives of former parliamentarians. This coupled with the fact that police constable Filipo Seavula was shot while on duty.

"Colonel Caucau said the military could not stand by and watch, as innocent lives were being threatened and lost.

"The military, he said, respects the high court ruling that Fiji’s constitution is still intact. But he added that one must not forget that the military had abrogated the 1997 constitution to bring back law and order.

"Ofa Kaukimoce, Radio Australia, Suva."

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

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