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Fiji Coalition calls on military to restore law

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SUVA: Fiji's elected but ousted government has called on the commander of the Fiji Military Forces, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, to honour his pledge in restoring law and order.

The Fiji Sun reported today that the "people's coalition" said in a statement that since Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his MPs were taken hostage two weeks ago, the country had seen a drastic deterioration in law and order.

"The abrogation of the [1997] constitution by military decree is unlawful and unconstitutional," the coalition statement said.

"Section 190 makes it abundantly clear that the constitution 'may not be altered in any other way' than in accordance with the procedures laid down in sections 191 and 192.

"There is only one lawful way to repeal the constitution, and that is through the passage of a Bill in Parliament, supported by specified majorities in both Houses.

Parliament alone is empowered to abrogate or amend the constitution.

The people's coalition urged the military to give priority to ensuring the safe release of the hostages, including Mr Chaudhry, protecting the integrity of the constitution and defending the democratically elected government.

"We insist that there can be no legitimacy in any action taken by the military that goes beyond the restoration of law and order," the statement said.

"Such action includes the military's involvement in political negotiations with [rebel leader George] Speight; its appointment of a military or military backed government; and its brokering of any political process."

The coalition also appealed to Commodore Bainimarama to provide protection for the hundreds of innocent people, especially the Indo-Fijian community, who were being subjected to acts of terrorism by vigilante groups under Speight's command.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has appealed to the interim military government to ensure that fundamental human rights are upheld.

It said it was concerned with the ongoing detention of hostages in the Parliament complex and the continuing reports of lawlessness and human rights abuse.

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