FIJI MILITARY CHIEF DISMISSES PROVINCIAL BILL SUPPORT

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, June 26) - Provincial councils do not speak for the whole of Fiji, says the country’s military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, a day after the last of Fiji's provincial councils gave its support to the Government's controversial Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill.

"I think the Government and the provincial councils would be surprised to find out that the grassroots people from their own areas, when explained about the implications of the Bill are against it," Bainimarama said.

Commodore Banimarama said Government should get the views of the whole of Fiji before taking the Bill back to Parliament for its approval.

The army is critical of provisions in the Bill that would allow amnesty for perpetrators of the 2000 coup, saying it would encourage future coups.

Yesterday the Lau Provincial Council gave its support for the Bill, two days ahead of the Great Council of Chiefs meeting which will rule on whether the body of Fiji's high chiefs will back the Government's Bill.

Meanwhile, the National Alliance Party says it is not surprised that all 14 provincial councils have supported the Government's proposed Reconciliation, Unity and Tolerance Bill.

Party president, Ratu Epeli Ganilau told Fijilive that the support from the provinces was expected because they are financially supported by the government.

He said he already knew that this would be the outcome.

"Either the presentation of the Bill was biased or the provincial councils are just turning a blind eye to the controversial bill," Ratu Epeli said.

"The members of the provincial council have been kept in the dark so that the Government can benefit and get their way of letting the coup perpetrators out. We are waiting for the Great Council of Chiefs (GCC) decision after which we will have a discussion on what to do next if the GCC also supports the Reconciliation Tolerance and Unity Bill, " he said.

The GCC will discuss the Bill tomorrow after hearing submissions from both critics and supporters of the proposed legislation.

June 27, 2005

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