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'Don't Harass Hostage Families' Plea

USP Journalism online (new UTS host): http://www.journalism.uts.edu.au/ USP Journalism ("mirror" of gagged site): http://www.sidsnet.org/pacific/usp/journ/

By Joe Yaya


© USP Journalism Programme

SUVA: Fiji's National Trauma Recovery Team today pleaded with journalists not to harass family members of the hostages for stories, and to remain patient as they were under traumatic stress as well.

The families needed time before the could openly talk to the media, said Professor Tony Taylor.

The Fiji and New Zealand governments have set up the team to offer psychological and medical assistance to the hostages held by gunmen in Parliament for more than a month.

The team consists of health professionals specialising in "critical incident stress management".

It is led by Father Makario Waqanivalu, a Fijian Catholic studying at Columbia University in the United States.

Included in the team are Professor Taylor from New Zealand, an expert in trauma cases, and Dr Epeli Nailatikau from the Ministry of Health's National Trauma Recovery Team.

At a media conference today, Prof Taylor said: "Let them open their hearts and minds when they are ready. Don't pester them."

The team is on "stand by" to attend to the hostages once they are released, in what they refer to as a "de-briefing exercise".

"The de-briefing will take about three-hours," said Prof Taylor. "We will attend to their mental, physical and spiritual needs once they are released."

"The purpose of this team is to conduct the de-briefing and stay on for further help if needed."

The recovery team has also visited the hostages, who have been confined to their "temporary-made prison" inside the Parliament complex since being seized at gunpoint on May 19.

Fr Makario described the condition of the hostages as "traumatic."

"They are in a traumatic situation. They are trying to cope as much as possible," he said.

Meanwhile, talks continue today between the interim military government and rebel leader George Speight's group in trying to bring an end to the political crisis.

Indications are that the hostages will be released once the decree that will guarantee Speight and his group amnesty for their illegal takeover of Parliament is passed by the regime, and the "make-up" of the new civilain government in acceptable to both sides.

+++niuswire

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