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FIJI: Chief says 'sacrifice education'

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SUVA: A Fijian chief whose land now hosts rebel leader George Speight's camp of supporters has declared that he is willing to sacrifice the education of Fijians so that indigenous rights will be recognised.

The Fiji Sun reported today that the Turaga na Qaranivalu, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, said this in response to public condemnation of the closure of the Kalabu Fijian School on the outskirts of Suva.

The school shut its doors - leaving about 500 indigenous pupils without classes - after Speight and his supporters moved there after leaving Parliament after a 62-day siege last week.

Ratu Inoke told the Fiji Sun: "We have to sacrifice education in order to get recognition for our Taukei rights and if that is to be the case, so be it.

"Once everything is resolved, meaning that we like the appointment of the new Prime Minister, then everything can carry on the way [it] used to."

Ratu Inoke, whose clan is the school's traditional landowner, said the school would not open until a new prime minister "to the liking" of the rebels was appointed.

Speight has opposed the appointment of caretaker prime minister Laisenia Qarase who had been installed by the military regime and then endorsed by the interim President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

Headmaster Gauna Halofaki said neither the Education Ministry or school officials could act.

"I cannot do anything much and neither can the Ministry of Education because he is the owner of the school and we have to abide by his decision," Halofaki told the Fiji Sun.

In an editorial, the Fiji Sun declared there was no time to waste and said indigenous people were disgruntled and fed-up with Speight and his "little tantrums".

"Education has been disrupted for the past three months. Do we want a generation of kids growing up into illiterate adults?" asked the paper.

"George, please realise the economical and social implications of your current stand. Your tantrums are not doing this country any good. They are simply delaying an early return to normality.

"One thing is certain, you will not want to see the day when the very people you profess to be fighting for, turn against you and despise you, when their lives have been ruined as a result of the international sanctions.

"The majority of the people of this country are also silently hoping and praying that the powers that be also do something about the Monasavu situation.

"It is clear that George Speight and his rebels are using that as one of their aces."

* Monasavu power station in the heart of the rugged interior of Viti Levi island, which normally supplies 80 per cent of the country's power, is shut down and controlled by rebel landowners.

+++niuswire

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