Policeman Dies, Armed Attack On TV Station
POLICEMAN DIES, ARMED ATTACK ON TV STATION
29 May 2000: 9.30pm
USP Journalism Programme
SUVA: A policeman wounded during a terror raid into the central business area of Fiji's capital Suva died early today as lawlessness mounted, according to local radio reports.
The 49-year-old constable was rushed to hospital last night after being shot in unclear circumstances near Parliament as gunmen and a mob of rebel leader George Speight's supporters left on an assault against the country's only television station.
A security guard also died outside the Suva post office, reportedly from a heart attack.
However, Radio Fiji quoted police spokesperson Inspector Sera Bernhard as saying that a post mortem had yet to be carried out to find the cause of death of the guard.
She said the dead constable, from the dog patrol unit, had been shot in his car when turning from Ratu Sukuna Road into Domain Road, near the Parliament complex.
He died at 12.44 this morning, about four hours after he had been wounded.
The Daily Post said today that about 200 men armed with stones and guns marched into the downtown area past the Government Buildings.
"Singing Fijian songs and chanting war cries, the group terrorised staff at Fiji Television, stoning their building and breaking the showglass," said the Post.
The television signals were cut during a legal drama series, "The Practice", and equipment was damaged.
But Fiji Television chief executive Ken Clark said his staff were all safe.
The station was reportedly targeted over the broadcast of a panel programme, "Close-Up", which featured media coverage of the hostage crisis.
Chaired by Fiji Television reporter Riyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, the panellists, political commentator Jone Dakuvula and Communications Fiji Ltd managing director William Parkinson, were critical of the rebels and their illegal regime.
The rebels still hold hostage elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and more than 30 members of his government. However, the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, on Saturday used a constitutional technicality to sack Chaudhry and his ministers in a bid for them to be set free.
60 Minutes presenter Tukaha Mua was reportedly chased by the protesters to Suva's Centra Hotel. A senior police officer also was reported to have run for cover at the hotel.
An unnamed journalist said on Radio Fiji today that some of the rebels had then driven to the hotel and fired shots in the air and threatened staff.
Rebel spokesman Ratu Timoci Silatolu blamed alleged "bias" of the media for the violence.
Speaking on Radio Fiji, he said their followers were "disappointed" about the reporting and "now they are taking it upon themselves to right things and they shouldn't be blamed for that".
The Daily Post said: "Army sources said last night the leaders of the hostage takers have lost control of some of their gunmen."
In other violence over the weekend, a tax driver, was murdered inside his home but it was not clear whether the killing was related to the political crisis. Police reported sporadic looting and threats against both Indo-Fijians and Fijians by Speight supporters.
Ratu Tevita Momoedonu today defended his role in the sacking of the Chaudhry cabinet after other Labour MPs and senators condemned him for the lack of consultation.
He told Radio Fiji the situation was so critical that there was no time for lengthy consultation.
"I had the moral obligation to do what I did," he said.