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Grassroots Fijians Don't Support Chiefs - Rebel

GRASSROOTS FIJIANS DON'T SUPPORT CHIEFS: REBEL
26 May 2000: 8.30am
By Isikeli Sauliga
USP Journalism Programme

SUVA: Support by indigenous Fijians towards the chiefs in Fiji appeared slim today after the rejection of the proposals to resolve the week-old hostage crisis from the Great Council of Chiefs by self-proclaimed Prime Minister George Speight and his rebel gunmen.

Acting "information minister" Simione Kaitani in the rebel administration told Pacific Journalism Online the chiefs had failed to consult their people and whatever they resolved was their own views - not of the grassroots people.

"This meeting was an emergency meeting of the chiefs and whatever their resolutions, are not of the grassroot fijians whom they suppose to represent," he said.

"They are speaking for themselves only and nobody else.

"So, first, they should have consulted their own people before attending this meeting because right now they are seen as contradicting the wishes of the grassroot people."

Both the council's proposal that all hostages be released, Speight and his rebel group be given an amnesty, the 1997 constitution be amended, and called for an administration government headed by the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and the rebel's rejection have been internationally condemned.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said on Radio Fiji today that any outcome from the hostage crisis that gave "victory to Speight and his gunmen" was unacceptable and would to sanctions against Fiji.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress said the democratic elected government must be restored and the chiefs' offer was conceding to terrorism and thuggery".

Elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his government have been held hostage since the gunmen stormed Parliament last Friday.

Great Council of Chiefs chairman Sitiveni Rabuka said last night the council was "blackmailed" into agreeing with most of the demands Speight.

At the start of the meeting on Tuesday, chiefs were told of the danger to the lives of those held captive.

Great Council of Chiefs member and Tui Nadrau, Ratu Lemeki Naboiboita Natadra, told Pacific Journalism Online his contribution to the council meeting was of his own and not his people.

"I did not have time to meet my people and whatever I am saying is my personal opinion and I think that this will cause some divisions among the chiefs and the people. - grassroots Fijian people," he said.

A villager, Lepani Rogorogonivanua from Kaba in Tailevu, said: "The villagers in Tailevu want George Speight to lead the country and not Ratu Mara."

He said the chiefs should not act on the premiss that they have the mandate of the grassroots people.

"Look at the people here in this Parliament, if they support the chiefs they would not be here. But now the opposite," he said.

In a two-page letter to George Speight, the great council of chiefs proposed ten resolutions which were rejected outright.

The rebels will meet this morning to draft a counter-proposal.

ENDS

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