SPEIGHT FACES SUCCESS AT POLLS - AND "'DEATH WISH"

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By Joe Yaya Wansolwara Online (USP)

SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 29, 2001 – Wansolwara Online/Pasifik Nius): Coup leader and state prisoner George Speight stands a good chance of winning his Fijian Communal Provincial seat amid a possible "death wish" on his life by prominent personalities, claims a leading sociologist.

The threat may be from people who fear Speight may implicate them in last year's Parliament takeover if he is convicted.

Sociologist Dr. Sitiveni Ratuva, at the University of the South Pacific, told Wansolwara Online yesterday that Speight had a very good chance of taking the Tailevu North Fijian Provincial Communal seat because of overwhelming support he received at Parliament House from the people of Tailevu during the hostage crisis.

"If he doesn't win in the first round of counting, he might get it in the second round or even third round," Dr. Ratuva said.

Speight, who is still held prisoner on Nukulau Island, did not campaign for the elections and is counting on the raw support of rural voters from his province.

However, Dr. Ratuva said Speight's future in the new Parliament after elections would depend on the outcome of his pending treason trial, which is now deferred to next year.

But he added that Speight's parliamentary "presence" would create difficulties with some foreign governments.

"I think Speight has been tainted with his criminal activities last year and I don't think any foreign government in its right mind will entertain that. It's one of those conditions of democracy and justice," Dr. Ratuva said.

"But if they are not able to convict him for treason, then he'll be a parliamentarian, a minister possibly, and we will have to live with the Speight factor."

Dr. Ratuva said that if Speight is convicted and sent to prison, he would reveal the elements behind the coup and possibly endanger his life.

"Speight is going to start spilling the beans and a lot of prominent people who have a lot to lose would do anything to shut him up.

"I'm sure that some of then are already conspiring to get rid of him."

Dr. Ratuva said one of the other two candidates vying for seats in this election who actively participated in the Parliament takeover with Speight also had a good chance of victory.

Deputy Prime Minister in Speight's rebel government, Ratu Timoci Silatolu, is contesting the Rewa Fijian Provincial Communal seat under the new Fijian Conservative Alliance Party.

The Alliance is headed by former Fiji Intelligence Service boss Metuisela Mua, who was also Speight's supporter in Parliament.

However, Dr. Ratuva said Mua may not win his seat because PANU and New Labour Unity candidates have given their preferences to the SVT party candidate, while Laisenia Qarase's SDL party has two candidates contesting for the seat.

Title -- 3370 POLITICS: Speight faces success at polls - and 'death wish' Date -- 29 August 2001 Byline -- Joe Yaya Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Wansolwara Online, 29/8/1 Copyright -- USP Journalism Status -- Unabridged

USP Pacific Journalism Online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/  USP Journalism on the Fiji crisis (UTS host): http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/  USP Pasifik Nius stories on Scoop (NZ): http://www.scoop.co.nz/international.htm  Have your say: http://www.TheGuestBook.com/vgbook/109497.gbook 

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