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Hostage's husband makes plea to exchange places

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SUVA: A former newspaper editor married to one of 31 hostages held by rebel gunman in Fiji's Parliament today appealed to the captors to free his wife and take him instead.

In an appeal through Radio Fiji, Adishwar "Spike" Padarath said Women's Minister Lavinia Padarath should be released and he volunteered to take her place.

His message was also conveyed through Red Cross director John Scott who was visiting the hostages this morning.

Padarath has been worried about the health of his wife.

Speaking to Pasifik Nius, he said: "It suddenly dawned on me at 3am this morning what I could do, so I rang the radio stations and made the offer."

He also tried unsuccessfully to reach Jo Nata, an adviser to rebel leader George Speight.

However, one newspaper, the Sunday Post, today reported that the four women hostages left had been told by the rebels that they could leave, but they refused while other hostages were still being held.

"I didn't know about this when I made my appeal," Padarath said. "They should have taken the chance and gone free.

"But I don't know accurate this report is."

According to the Sunday Post, the women will now be held indefinitely in Parliament as talks between the hostage-takers and the military have again become deadlocked.

Besides Ms Padarath, the three other women hostages are ousted cabinet minister Adi Koila Nailatikau, daughter of the former President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara; assistant minister Marieta Rigamoto; and backbencher Akanisi Koroitamana.

Another assistant minister, Adi Ema Tagicakibau, was released on Wednesday to attend the funeral of her elder sister and did not return to Parliament.

According to the Sunday Sun, chiefs in the western division of the main island of Viti Levu have decided to support the formation of a "western government" following the illegal takeover of democratically elected governments in 1987 and now this year.

This was revealed by the Tui Ba, Ratu Sairusi Nagagavoka, at a prayer meeting of about 600 people at Viseisei village, Vuda, yesterday.

Political gatherings are banned under martial law while religious events are accepted.

"Ratu Sairusi's announcement of a western government was followed by cheering and clapping by people from all walks of life gathered at the prayer session," the Sunday Sun said.

"He said the chiefs in the west could no longer bear the overthrowing of a democratically elected government.

"He said the western government would cater for people of all races in Fiji."

The Sunday Sun added that it was also revealed that Ratu Mara rejected the idea of a western government. But Ratu Sairusi said the chiefs would "stand firm".

A delegation of chiefs led by the Tui Ba will forward the proposal to the Great Council of Chiefs next week.

Ratu Sairusi said the west had the country's major economic resources - the sugar industry, gold mine, international airport and major tourist attractions.

Mahendra Chaudhry, who is from Ba, is the second western Prime Minister to be removed from office at gunpoint.

The late Dr Timoci Bavadra, who lasted in office for a month as head of a Labour Party-led coalition government in 1987, was from Viseisei.

After the 1987 coups, there were moves to establish a Yasayasa Vakara, or fourth Fijian confederacy, to rank alongside the traditional Kubuna, Burebasaga and Tovata confederacies.

The Sunday Times today appealed to the chiefs to take decisive action to resolve the impasse as the splits among the Fijian community opened wider.

"The longer it takes to resolve the present political crisis the more harm is done to indigenous Fijians," the paper said.

"And still the chiefs [do not] move to arrest the situation. They could have called for a referendum.

"Now that the Fijian people stand ready to split in two groups the chiefs have still taken no decisive action.

"The country cannot afford to become a Pacific version of Kosovo or Rwanda."

+++niuswire

This document is for educational and research use only. Recipients should seek permission from the copyright source before reprinting. PASIFIK NIUS service is provided by the niusedita via the Journalism Program, University of the South Pacific. Please acknowledge Pasifik Nius: niusedita@pactok.net.au http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/index.html


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