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FIJI: Speight's Olympic thuggery call 'shameful'

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SUVA: Fiji rebel leader George Speight's call for South Pacific people to disrupt the Sydney Olympics in the name of indigenous rights was today branded as "shameful" by the Sunday Post newspaper.

"It is one thing to plant the racial and religious seed of discord in Fiji," said the paper in an editorial.

"And in doing so, make everybody's life hell by promoting thuggery and violence on the tip of a gun, hiding behind the skirts and sulus of hostages and glorifying in the misguided fame of support from a bunch of misguided merrymaking people.

"It is however, quite a different thing when this thug promotes himself to the level of international terrorist and attempts to disrupt the most revered games in the universe in his once adopted country, Australia."

The Sunday Post, edited by an indigenous Fijian, accused Speight of losing the plot as well as his course in his crusade.

"It is also astonishing that this so-called champion and crusader of indigenous rights is threatening to do something that may deny other indigenous Fijians to fulfil their once in a lifetime dream of participating in this historical and prestigious sporting event.

"We must remind Speight that athletes attend the Games for honour and not for material goods.

"George, your foolish and damaging escapade has brought a black spot on the hitherto clean face of our beloved Fiji. Please do not smear it any more with your racial, religious and sectarian prejudices."

In a front page report, the Sunday Post reported that the French and British governments had announced they would impose new sanctions against Fiji.

In a stern warning to the Fijian-dominated regime, the two countries said they would continue to follow developments in Fiji and may increase more sanctions if the situation worsens.

Earlier, Britain recalled its high commissioner from Fiji for consultations.

Fiji was partially suspended from the Commonwealth which will meet again in early September to review the Fiji crisis. The Commonwealth wants an early return to democracy.

The French defence pact, which comprises joint exercises and economic exclusive zone maritime surveillance missions from New Caledonia, has been suspended.

New French cooperation projects with Fiji have also been suspended.

In a statement issued from the French Embassy in Suva, Paris condemned the illegal takeover of government.

"From the beginning, France condemned the taking of hostages and the overthrow of the elected government of the People's Coalition," the statement said.

The French government appealed for a quick return of the 1997 constitution and democratic order which requires equal rights for indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians.

Commenting about the new interim President and government (which has not yet been sworn in), the statement said: "We regret that the new line-up does not seem to reflect the reality of the Fijian nation."

The Sunday Times reported that Speight wanted caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to stand aside.

"The problem with Qarase's approach is [that] he is trying to pacify people outside to the point where they are dictating who should be in the line-up," Speight told the Sunday Times.

"That is absolutely not acceptable."

Meanwhile, deposed elected prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry said the best solution to solve the country's crisis would be a United Nations supervised referendum, according to the Sunday Times.

Chaudhry also did not rule out the possibility of a government of national unity but his elected government would need to be dissolved within the framework of the 1997 constitution.

"That is our position but we have not been consulted by those who hold the guns," he said.

Chaudhry said the referendum would give the people a chance to vote on whether they do want his government back or not.

He added this should be done as "nobody is talking about getting back to democratic rule".


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