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Put Blame Where It Belongs: Priest

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SUVA: A Catholic priest has appealed to Fiji Islanders to "put the blame squarely" on coup leaders and their supporters, not those calling for trade bans or other strong measures.

Father David Arms, a Labasa priest who is an electoral system specialist in the Citizens' Constitutional Forum, also reminded the nation that the reinstatement of the Mahendra Chaudhry government and the 1997 constitution needed to remain the "prime goals" of foreign governments and groups inside the country concerned for democracy and the rule of law.

He strongly condemned concessions to rebel leader George Speight and the hostage-takers, saying "the power of the gun most not be allowed to dictate policy".

Fr Arms said that by giving concessions, the military regime would only open the way to endless violence of this kind in Fiji and in other Pacific countries, such as in the Solomon Islands.

He said it was clear Speight, the Great Council of Chiefs and the military had no power to revoke the constitution.

"The way Fiji is headed, it will become a paraiah state, incurring trade boycotts, sporting bans, and other sanctions that will be hard on ordinary people," Fr Arms wrote in a two-page article in the Fiji Times.

"But the goals of freedom, justice and equality cannot be attained without sacrifice.

"Those who support such penalties are not to be viewed as enemies of the state, but rather its best friends.

"They are trying to bring bad leadership to its senses, make it move with the times and conduct itself according to the basic norms of a civilised society."

Fr Arms, a New Zealander who has lived in Fiji many years, said it was better to make strong concerted efforts that brought quick results, even at the cost of some suffering, than to let Fiji drift steadily further into "racial prejudice, moral bankruptcy, economic decline and a protracted struggle - things which will raise the levels of tension and unhappiness" and create greater stress.

"Better a timely amputation than a protracted painful death from gangrene," he said.

"The blame for our troubles must be put squarely on those who conducted the coup and those who are supporting or are accommodating them, not on those who are supporting bans or the like, for such strong measures are definitely necessary.

"It has been quite disturbing to see how half-hearted measures employed after the 1987 coups have been cited by George Speight's group as a reason not to worry about their alleged activities."

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