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Rebels Want Siwatibau In Civilian Government

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SUVA: A former Governor of Fiji's Reserve Bank who was a minister in the country's first coup administration, Savenaca Siwatibau, is one of rebel leader and Suva businessan George Speight's choices for Prime Minister.

The Daily Post today quoted an adviser to Speight as saying the rebels were pushing for Siwatibau and other credible people, including former Fiji Development Bank boss Larenia Qarase, for the position.

When contacted yesterday in Vanuatu where Siwatibau is based as director-general of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, his personal assistant said he was unavailable, the Post said.

"We are aware of the matter though," the personal assistant said.

Qarase declined to comment.

Siwatibau was recently embroiled in controversy over the appointment of the next vice-chancellor at the University of the South Pacific.

Supporters of Speight, including information minister in the rebel "government" Simione Kaitani, had been pushing for the appointment of Siwatibau at the university.

A university joint selection committee had reportedly proposed a shortlist of two people, Siwatibau and the present Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rajesh Chandra.

The committee recommended Chandra in a report to the University Council earlier this month and some Fijian students staged protests at the university over this leaked information.

The council deferred a decision on any appointment and requested a review of the procedure before the next council meeting in October.

Radio Fiji and the Fiji Times today reported a "breakthrough" in the impasse over the political crisis and 32 hostages from the elected government, including former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, held in Parliament by the rebels.

A decision on whether a military or civilian government will run Fiji has been left up to the Great Council of Chiefs, reports the Fiji Times.

This was agreed to after talks late yesterday between the head of the military government, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and Speight.

The chiefs were due to meet this morning.

The military council, the highest body in the country since martial law was declared on Monday night, has not been officially named. However, the nine-member body is understood to include the following territorial officers:

Major-General Sitiveni Rabuka, chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs (leader of the first two coups in 1987).

Brigadier-General Ratu Epeli Ganilau, former military commander, son of the late President, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, and son-in-law of the resigned President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Brigadier-General Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, former military commander (deposed at the time of the first coup in 1987), son of the late Deputy Prime Minister Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau and son-in-law of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Brigadier-General George Konrote, former army chief-of-staff and former force commander of the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL).


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