TAUKEI MOVEMENT BACKS OFF FIJI PROTEST

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 14, 2001 - Fiji Sun/PINA Nius Online)---The indigenous Fijian Taukei Movement reports that it will not be sending 20 busloads of members to Suva on Monday.

Instead, the movement yesterday pledged its support to Fiji's President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, the interim administration and the security forces.

Movement president and the Tui Navitilevu, Ratu Tevita Bolobolo, told the army that Taukei Movement members will not be pouring into Suva for the Fiji Court of Appeals hearing on the validity of the 1997 Constitution.

This hearing starts on Monday.

Western army commander Lieutenant Colonel Henry Manulevu said he had a "fruitful meeting" with members of the movement.

A movement spokesperson had earlier said 20 busloads of members would picket at the courthouse where the hearing is to take place.

"They (movement members) have categorically told us that no buses will be going to Suva," said Lieutenant Colonel Manulevu.

"They have further reaffirmed their allegiance to Ratu Iloilo, the interim government and the security forces to bring about stability in the country."

Ratu Tevita said the decision was agreed to be members and those who weren't at the meeting would be informed of the outcome.

Fiji's interim government is appealing against a High Court ruling by Justice Anthony Gates that the 1997 constitution is still in force and the interim government is not legal.

The interim government was formed with the backing of the indigenous Fijian Great Council of Chiefs and Fiji Military Forces after widespread unrest and violence last year. It followed the Fiji Labour Party-led government -- and Fiji's first ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry -- being taken hostage by indigenous Fijian rebels in a May 19 coup.

The takeover of parliament and hostage taking came amidst a protest march through Suva by indigenous Fijians, and was followed by looting and burning of Indian-owned businesses.

Assistant Divisional Police Commander Emosi Lagilagi agreed with Lieutenant Colonel Manulevu, saying they were sure there would not be any disturbances or violence in the division.

The security forces have warned people against spreading "unsubstantiated rumors." Additional police and army personnel have been posted to all essential services areas and potential trouble spots.

Lieutenant Colonel Manulevu said all soldiers had been put on stand-by.

Meanwhile, Police Commissioner Isikia Savua has reiterated that the police will be monitoring any moves by individuals or political parties who are considering causing disturbances in the country.

* Earlier, five indigenous Fijian political parties guaranteed they would not promote political disobedience after the Appeals Court ruling.

They said they will stand by the decisions made by the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo after the ruling.

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

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