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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 11) – Fiji Vice-President Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi has advised the army to find a less public medium in which to air its views on matters of national interest.

After he was sworn in yesterday, the Bau chief said since the 1987 and 2000 coups, the military had played an influential role in the running of the country. But he added for a developing democracy, this could be a matter of public concern.

He was referring to concerns raised publicly about the army's decision to make public its views on issues of public interest in particular national security.

Despite advice from Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to the army to follow proper channels in voicing its concerns, the army has continued to air its views publicly.

Ratu Joni was sworn in as vice president in front of government officials and diplomats.

The former High Court judge also said one of the important tasks he would undertake was to have talks with the Fijian community about fears they may have over matters of concern to them.

He said this fear or concern was causing disquiet among the Fijian people.

He said Fijians needed to be reminded they had a bright future in this country.

"It is a challenge but if it is not resolved satisfactorily, the events of 1987 and 2000 will constantly return to haunt us," Ratu Joni said.

He said the world would not wait for Fiji to solve its political problems.

Ratu Joni said the challenges ahead were difficult but were not impossible to overcome if everyone worked together and came up with solutions.

He said there was a division among ethnic groups and within the groups as well.

Ratu Joni, who will serve until 2006, said when rumors surfaced that he was likely to take up the post of vice president, he had discussions with his wife, Adi Lusiane.

Even though his new post sees him getting much lesser pay than what he was getting at the law firm he was working for, Ratu Joni said he did not hesitate to take up the post because it was to answer the President's call for someone to rely on for advice.

"To decline, it would have been traditionally bad form for me," he said.

Ratu Joni said Fiji was fortunate because it had an abundance of natural resources and a mixture of races living together.

The military said yesterday it would not comment on Ratu Joni's statement.

January 12, 2005

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