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SUVA, Fiji Islands (December 31, 2000 - Fiji's Sunday Post/PINA Nius Online, 31 December 2000)---Fiji Military Forces commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama has been named Fiji's Man of the Year by the Sunday Post.

The newspaper said he never bowed to those who broke the law during trying times after the May 19 coup by indigenous Fijian rebel gunmen led by George Speight.

Bainimarama was hailed for saving the country and people from further chaos after declaring martial law and taking control on May 29.

The Sunday Post said Bainimarama was chosen after a random poll of people from all walks of life. They included politicians, business people, academics, activists, and the "men on the street."

It said he was selected ahead of six former and present national figures who had been the topic of everyday conversation since May 19. They were rebel leader Speight, ousted Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, former President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, present President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, and Great Council of Chiefs Chairperson Sitiveni Rabuka.

Commodore Bainimarama told the Sunday Post he was supported by many people throughout the crisis. His source of strength came from his family, "the messages of prayers received from people of all walks of life and the on-going support of the military," he said.

Commodore Bainimarama thanked every member of the Fiji Military Forces for their sacrifices during the crisis. He said their support for the institution and what it stood for and their personal sacrifices made it easy for him to make decisions.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Post reported members of the deposed People's Coalition Government plan to resume their duties this week as a government in "exile."

Mr. Chaudhry, who was Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, was quoted as saying: "All the elected ministers will attend to matters under their portfolios as from Tuesday. We have been elected by the people, so it becomes our duty to serve them."

Mr. Chaudhry said they would act under the 1997 constitution. He said they were democratically elected and a recent High Court ruling had declared them the legitimate elected government.

Ratu Talemo Ratakele, Minister for Home Affairs in the interim government now in power and backed by the military and Fijian Great Council of Chiefs, called this move "childish."

"The matter is still before the courts and we don't know yet if they are a legal regime," he said. "And the question is who will recognize them and how will they operate as it is we, the interim administration, who have the military and police back up plus the civil service."

Meanwhile, the Director of the police Criminal Investigations Department, Emosi Vunisa, said investigations into the coup are taking time because they are complex.

"The investigation is complicated due to the fact it was a civilian-attempted coup," he said.

He was reacting to calls from the deposed Coalition government ministers to speed up investigations.

He said: "It may take a year or more. We don't know. We have done quite a lot of work. Many have been questioned. Out of them some have been charged while others' files are with the Director of Public Prosecutions Office."

Speight and other key supporters are currently held in a temporary prison on an island off Suva.

Some business people will be questioned this week, the Sunday Post reported. These prominent business people are alleged to have financed the May 19 coup, it said.

For additional reports from The Post-Courier, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The Post-Courier (Papua New Guinea).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: 

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