EARLY FIJI ELECTION LOOMS

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 24, 2001 - Daily Post/Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius)---Watch for the Fiji Islands to go to the polls within the next few months, perhaps as early as April, reports the Daily Post.

But all will depend on how the Court of Appeal validates the legitimacy of interim regime Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase’s government.

The five appellate judges are expected to make known their decision next Thursday on whether the 1997 (multiracial) constitution is still valid despite it being abrogated by military commander Commodore Frank Bainimarama on May 29 last year.

The interim government yesterday was quietly weighing its options.

"We have a fair idea of what to do," was all a senior government official could say last night.

However, he indicated the government would be guided by the court after its four-day hearing last week.

Meanwhile, the internal refugee farmer Chandrika Prasad, who filed the original High Court human rights case and won a landmark decision last November ruling that the 1997 Constitution was still supreme law, said he did not care what government was in power -- as long as his human rights were protected.

Prasad’s spokesman, Dr. Sudesh Mishra, yesterday told the Fiji Times that the courts had been asked that human rights issues be considered as fundamental to the case.

Dr. Mishra said a quick return to democratic governance was "just one of the aspects of his case."

"But good governance and respect for human rights were linked in the minds of the international community," Dr. Mishra said.

Dr. Mishra also reaffirmed that the Prasad case was not linked to any political party. Nor had legal counsel Geoffrey Robertson, QC, any link with a political party.

He rejected earlier reports that Robertson was acting for both Prasad and the Fiji Labour Party, the elected party that won a landslide victory in the May 1999 election.

Title -- 3228 FIJI: Early election looms - Daily Post Date -- 24 February 2001 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- PN/Daily Post/Fiji Times, 24/2/1 Copyright -- PN/DP/FT Status -- Unabridged

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FIJI POLICE, ARMY TRAIN TOGETHER

SUVA, Fiji Islands (Feb. 26, 2001 - The Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---A police riot team from Suva has been training with the army in Fiji's Western Division in a joint operation by the security forces.

The team consisting of 30 officers from the Police Mobile Force was brought in as part of security measures in the run-up to the Court of Appeal decision.

Army West commander Lieutenant Colonel Henry Manulevu said they were working closely with police on various security measures.

Although Lt. Col. Manulevu does not expect any trouble during the week, he said they were prepared for anything.

He said they had considered possible scenarios that could take place during the week and would adjust security accordingly.

While police have mounted checkpoints at strategic points, the army will erect snap checkpoints to assist police.

Lt. Col. Manulevu said the army would step in if police could not handle the law and order situation. Army checkpoints have also been maintained at key entry points, such as Nadi International Airport.

Fiji's interim government is appealing 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.

The military on May 29 declared martial law to stop the growing deterioration in law and order.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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

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