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Fiji: Military Backs Down Isolating Speight

Confusion reigns in Fiji after the military announcement yesterday they have delayed their plans to isolate coup leader George Speight and his men.

The military announced the move to cut off the coup leader and his men from supplies and media last week, in a bid to get tough with the hostage takers after a drawn out process of negotiation failed.

However, reports from the islands say the coup leaders and supporters remain free to come and go in the Parliamentary complex where 28 hostages are still being kept.

Meanwhile, army has announced it will still go ahead with plans to announce a new interim government for the islands.

More detail of this can be found in a transcript of a report from Fiji news site www.fijilive.com.

New govt today

EXPECT the new interim civilian government to be named today.

The Head of State Commodore Frank Bainimarama is expected to swear in the interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase either later today or early tomorrow.

"At the latest Tuesday," was all the military could say yesterday.

A total of 18 cabinet ministers and one assistant minister have already been identified using the criteria set by the military council that those in the interim cabinet be apolitical and men of wisdom, vision and good standing.

While the military council has kept the interim civilian line up a closely guarded secret, it's understood that the ministers have been quietly working over the past week on how to run their portfolios.

Prime Minister-designate Mr Qarase is reported to have held talks with foreign ambassadors last week as government moves to secure international recognition.

The military council had earlier opted for a multiracial cabinet with two indo-Fijians included in the line up.

But, the two, retired business executive Tom Raju and businessman Iqbal Jannif have since withdrawn, reportedly because of pressure from the Indian community.

Similarly, Rewa high chief Ro Teimumu Kepa, earmarked for the Fijian Affairs ministry, has also withdrawn.

As a result, the entire 18 member cabinet line up consists of all indigenous Fijians and one Rotuman.

The interim government has been given a two year deadline to bring the country back to parliamentary democracy.

Within that time frame Mr Qarase's team is expected put in place a new constitution, prepare the electoral boundaries, compile a new electoral roll and above all, get the economy going once again.

After the new cabinet is sworn in another team is expected to be announced.

This time, its a constitutional team, that will be charged with the responsibility of formulating a new constitution for the country.

A first draft is expected within the first six months of the team being formed.

The document will than be circulated as widely as possible for discussion and comments from individuals and various organisations before a final draft acceptable to all is adopted.

A key element on the new constitution is expected to be the strengthening of affirmative action in favour of indigenous Fijian interests while the interests of others are also safe guarded.

But the immediate task for the interim government is the recovery of the economy.

Fiji's Daily Post

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