SPECIAL TEAM TO PROTECT NEW FIJI GOVERNMENT, SAYS FIJI POST

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 28, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---A team of crack police and military officers are training to ensure that Fiji's new government -- to take over after this week's general elections -- will be well protected, Fiji's Daily Post reported.

Police Director of Uniform Operations Romanu Tikotikoca said the joint police-military protection team will play a critical role in dealing with security matters.

"This will continue after a new government is sworn in and the opening of Parliament," he told the Daily Post.

Mr. Tikotikoca said to prevent what happened last year, where the democratically elected government was overthrown, the joint security team will take over security.

"Much has been said that if Mahendra Chaudhry comes back there will be trouble," Mr. Tikotikoca told the Daily Post. But the senior police officer said the situation is very stable and calm at the moment and he sees no sign of a threat that will disrupt elections.

The elections return Fiji to democratic government after the coup last year. Indigenous Fijian rebel gunmen took hostage the government led by Mr. Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, and forced its overthrow.

Mr. Tikotikoca, who also heads community policing, said he and his officers had visited 1,600 locations trying to mend bridges and re-establish formerly friendly relationships between the two major races.

He said of the reaction of people: "They do not want a repeat of what had happened, as they have suffered enough. They just want a new government to move the country forward."

The elections entered their third day without major incident and with people queuing in the sunshine throughout the country to cast their votes.

Other Developments

* The Fiji Times reported indigenous Fijian chiefs in some areas ordered that instead of political parties having different sheds housing rival supporters near polling stations that there should be only one shed for everyone.

* The Daily Post reported that at Muainaweni, one of the hotbeds of racial violence during the coup, the country's four major political parties came under one shed roof near the polling station as residents showed voting was not going to weaken the bond developed through the past months of reconciliation.

Everyone who came to cast their votes - Fijian and Indian - drank grog from the same tanoa of yaqona, the Post said.

* The Fiji Sun reported international observers and the Elections Office have been urged to investigate claims by villagers in one area that they were ordered by their chief to vote for a particular party.

* Radio FM96 reported that the court martial of 15 soldiers from the now disbanded Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit over alleged involvement in last year's army mutiny will be heard after the elections. It was adjourned yesterday for two weeks.

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

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