FIJI MILITARY WARNS AGAINST COUP-TAINTED CANDIDATES

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Feb. 9) – The Fiji military says it won’t support the nomination for presidency of any chief implicated in the 2000 coup.

[PIR editor’s note: Coup leader George Speight took then Fiji Prime Minister and others hostage in May of 2000 citing disappointment with the Great Council of Chiefs' decision to back then President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara during the political crisis. Speight presented arguments for the total abolition of the 1997 constitution, which brought Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's Indian-led coalition to power (read related stories).]

The statement comes ahead of the Great Council of Chiefs’ meeting on March 8 to select Fiji’s President and Vice President.

Military spokesman Captain Neumi Leweni says the military will not support any coup-tainted chief nominated by the Great Council of Chiefs.

He says the military is aware that some chiefs whose names have been floated for nomination were implicated in the 2000 upheaval.

Leweni says since the President is the Commander in Chief of the army - the military will not allow anyone with a coup background to be the head of state.

[PIR editor’s note: The Great Council of Chiefs – Bose Levu Vakaturaga in Fijian – is a constitutional body in the Republic of the Fiji Islands. The council was established under Section 116 of the 1997 Constitution, but predates the constitution by many years, as it was established by the British as an advisory body in 1876, two years after the United Kingdom annexed Fiji. The council currently consists of 55 members comprising hereditary chiefs along with some specially qualified commoners. According to the Fiji constitution, the council has two major powers: It functions as an electoral college to elect the President and Vice-President of Fiji for a five-year term; and it chooses 14 of the 32 members of the Senate.]

February 10, 2006

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