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FIJI:Western chiefs back Ratu Josefa for president

FIJI: Western chiefs back Ratu Josefa for president

SUVA: Western chiefs came to the Fiji Islands capital of Suva today with a message for rebel leader George Speight and the military - they want Ratu Josefa Iloilo made President and for him to form a civilian interim government.

Ratu Josefa, who wept on a television interview two days ago when told of the Commonwealth's decision to partially suspend Fiji, is the Tui Vuda, a high western chief.

He had been also been deputy to President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, who stepped aside when martial law was declared on May 29 and the military took executive control.

At their meeting in Nadi yesterday, the western chiefs formally decided on establishing a fourth tribal confederacy.

This means the west will have a confederacy ranking with the traditional Tovata, Kubuna and Burebasaga confederacies.

The Speight-led insurrection and seizing of the elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his multiracial government in Parliament on May 19 has been associated by some political observers with the Kubuna confederacy.

Chiefly power in the country since independence in 1970 has derived from the eastern Tovata confederacy with traditional Tongan links.

Meeting spokesman Ratu Osea Gavidi told reporters the meeting preferred a fourth confederacy rather than a breakaway western "state".

He added that the choice of Ratu Josefa as interim president was popular among the chiefs.

The chiefs hoped that Ratu Josefa might be able to re-establish links with the Commonwealth.

Meanwhile, the military accused a group of chiefs - previously nominated as a delegation by the Great Council of Chiefs - of pursuing its own personal interests.

An army statement said the chiefs were members of the council's sub-committee appointed to hand over last month's 10-point resolution from their meeting to Speight.

When Speight spurned the resolution, the chiefs apparently carried on negotiation without the council's authority.

"The military government understands the frequent calls for the convening of the Great Council of Chiefs were not made at the instigation of Mr Speight," the statement said.

"Rather, it was the machination of Ratu Epeli Kanaimawi and some members of the committee to influence matters and thereby gain a foothold into the interim government."

Rebel supporters at Parliament yesterday beat up a policeman, a 27-year-old detective constable, and then held him captive for about half an hour.

The Daily Post said the military's Quick reaction Force negotiated his release. He was today recovering from serious facial injuries from the beating.

The detective had been sent to Parliament to recover a taxi hijacked by Speight's supporters - many of them whom have been there since the seizure of Parliament.


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