INTERIM PRIME MINISTER GETS CHILLY RECEPTION

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 7) – Interim Prime Minister Doctor Jona Senilagakali was met with hostility when he arrived at the Fiji School of Medicine (FSM) graduation ceremony yesterday.

One of his peers, who is also a chief, approached the military doctor and berated him for his decision to accept the interim prime ministership.

FSM Dean Professor David Brewster confirmed the morning incident.

He said Dr Senilagakali had just arrived at the Tattersalls Centre where the graduation was held, when he was approached by the doctor, who is on the staff of the school. He said the staff member told Dr. Senilagakali that what he was doing was shameful and that he was not worthy of the school.

Professor Brewster said Dr. Senilagakali left soon afterwards before the graduation ceremony started.

Late yesterday afternoon, he was sworn in as prime minister in the absence of any member of the judiciary. After the ceremony, Dr. Senilagakali said he was obliged to accept the commander's decision to appoint him because he was employed by the army.

He said the military council was headed by the commander and was made up of more than a dozen officers.

He said the council would decide how long it would take for an interim government to be formed.

Meanwhile, Professor Brewster said the graduation proceeded as normal.

He said he was pleasantly surprised with the large number of regional students who were present for the graduation.

"Samoan students had been asked to leave but many of them wanted to graduate with their class and did so," he said. "Many of the regional students had been told to leave and graduate in absentia but I was surprised at the number present today."

He said about 400 students graduated in what he said was a normal graduation despite the situation the country was in.

He said there had been thoughts about postponing the graduation but the students wanted it to go ahead.

"Curative Health Services Minister Doctor Gunasagaran Gounder was the chief guest but he couldn't attend and Doctor Margaret Cornelius stood in," said Professor Brewster. "Dr Esther Williams represented the University of the South Pacific and following the ceremony, there was supposed to be a graduation dinner but this was converted to a lunch at the Raffles Tradewinds Hotel in Lami."

Mr Brewster said the ceremony started at 9am and finished at around 11.30am.

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