FIJI’S PRESIDENT RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA OFFICIALLY RESIGNS

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FIJI’S PRESIDENT RATU SIR KAMISESE MARA OFFICIALLY RESIGNS

SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 20, 2000 - BBC)---The president of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, has announced his official resignation.

Ratu Mara was deposed after a coup attempt May 19 by nationalist rebels trying to overthrow the elected government. But he was subsequently declared the legitimate head of state in a High Court ruling.

Ratu Mara backdated his resignation to May 29, the same day martial law was declared.

Last month a high court judgment found that the current interim government, installed by the military, is illegal.

Ratu Mara’s resignation came as Fiji's High Court threw out a bid by the interim administration for a stay of execution on that ruling.

"I maintain the interim administration is illegal and unconstitutional," Justice Anthony Gates said on Wednesday.

Deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, who was ousted during the coup, welcomed the legal move and called on the Secretary of Finance to "forthwith cease all payments and privileges to members of the interim regime from the public purse."

Crisis

The interim administration had wanted the stay order to give them time to appeal Justice Gates’ ruling. It announced it would now take the case to the Court of Appeal.

The political crisis dates back to May 19 when rebel leader George Speight stormed the Parliament complex and took Mr. Chaudhry and his government hostage.

Mr. Speight, who said he was acting in the interests of indigenous Fijians, is now confined on a prison island awaiting trial on treason charges.

He appeared in court on Wednesday, but the hearing was held on the island for security reasons. The next hearing is scheduled for January 3.

For additional reports from the BBC, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/BBC News: Asia-Pacific.

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