FIJI CHIEFS COME UNDER SCRUTINY IN 2000 COUP

SUVA, Fiji (RNZI, Feb. 3) - The chairman of Fiji’s Great Council of Chiefs says chiefs implicated in the May 2000 coup and its aftermath should be thoroughly investigated and brought to justice.

Ratu Epeli Ganilau has told the Fiji Times that nobody is immune from prosecution and chiefs ought not to be treated differently from ordinary citizens by law enforcement authorities.

He was reacting to statements by the Fiji Labor Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, that some dishonest chiefs were among those responsible for the coup and the country’s instability.

Ratu Epeli says he does not take offence at the statement and the legal process should be followed against the chiefs implicated.

He says culture and tradition should not impede the work of investigators, no matter how highly a chief is placed.

Fiji’s opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, has also backed calls for the investigation of chiefs and other influential people, saying that keeping silent would give legitimacy to their corrupt and dishonest practices.

Meanwhile, Fiji Labor Party’s chief administrative official and spokesman, John Ali, has resigned citing his leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, as the cause of the party’s and country’s problems.

Ali has told the Daily Post that the future of the country is bleak and doubtful and called for a change in leadership.

He says the Labor Party seems to be run by a one man army and anyone who questions Chaudhry is marked.

Ali says Chaudhry’s leadership style was the reason for the May 2000 coup and continues to be the reason for the division between the two major races in Fiji.

In other reports, Fiji’s Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, says the government wants the size of the public service cut so that costs can be trimmed from 80 to 70 per cent of the state’s annual budget.

Qarase says this reduction has to come from strict controls on the size of the public service and its wage and salary costs.

He says this is essential if the government is to reach its investment target, so that gross domestic product shows growth of between 5 and 6 per cent.

Qarase says to reach this growth target, investment must increase from the current 10 to 25 per cent.

February 3, 2003

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

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