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SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 3, 2001 - Fiji Daily Post/FijiLive/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji parliamentary sessions will get unprecedented security, a top police officer confirmed as the country resumed parliamentary government yesterday.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Operations Kevueli Bulanaivalu said the security forces were working together to provide security at the Parliamentary Complex during House of Representatives and Senate sittings.

During any sitting, 100 police officers will be engaged at Parliament. He said that they had learned from the 1987 and 2000 coups.

The security then, he said, was very slack and the coup makers took advantage of this.

The extra security now in place in Parliament had not been budgeted for and he said the Police Force would be asking for a substantial amount to provide secure protection. He said that they also have been working closely with the Army and the Prisons Department.

Meanwhile the President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, during his address at the opening of Parliament, paid tribute to the police, military, judiciary and the prison service for what they did during the coup crisis last year.

He said that maintenance of law and order, the protection of national security and the administration of justice are vital to ensure citizens their security and safety and fundamental rights and freedoms.

The president's speech signaled that the new government of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is embarking on radical initiatives in education. These include paying all examination fees and the Native Land Trust Board premium on all school leases on native land.

Ratu Josefa said improvement in infrastructure and facilities in rural schools will be given increased assistance.

He said special affirmative support programs will be introduced for early childhood education, special education for the impaired and handicapped children, technical and vocational education and training, Fijian and rural education.

A review will also be undertaken to improve the conditions for teachers, especially those in rural schools.

Ratu Iloilo said reducing the cost of education to students and their parents will include the extension of a tuition free plan to Form 4 and in subsequent years to Form 5 and Form 6.

"Implementation of the Blueprint for Fijian and Rotuman education will be commenced, and a further increase will be made in the multi-ethnic scholarship fund for students from the Indian and minority communities," he said.

Government assistance to higher education will be targeted at enabling every family to succeed in having at least one child receive the highest level of education at university or tertiary institutions, he said.

On the Constitution, Ratu Josefa said the Government will be adopting a community consensus approach in initiating a proposal in Parliament, after consultation with political and community leaders, for a review.

He said the fundamental purpose of this review will be to ensure that the Constitution reflects the wishes of the people.

He was giving, he said, a firm and clear assurance that no rights currently provided in the Constitution for any community will either be removed or reduced.

"Those making political statements that there is a conspiracy to deny a section of our society of their constitutional rights are not being responsible and honest," he said.

Speaking on land issues, Ratu Iloilo said a fair and equitable solution to the future of expiring leases must also be enacted through this session of Parliament.

"The decline in cane production and the need to improve our sugar mills and infrastructure require that the Government and Parliament must give the sugar industry its serious and urgent attention," he said.

Ratu Josefa said the Government will also move with speed to establish a Land Claims Tribunal to deal with long-standing grievances of indigenous Fijians on land alienated or acquired from their ancestors.

Ratu Josefa said in natural resource-based industries like tourism, agriculture, forestry, mining, underground water development and fisheries, the Government will ensure close consultations with the traditional owners. It will facilitate their equitable participation in joint venture commercial operations, he said.

Meanwhile, a national advisory council on Indian Affairs and a national advisory council for other minority communities will be established under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

For additional reports from FijiLive, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

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

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