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Military Presence Increased; Tension High

Issue No: 113 13 October 2000

The military has confirmed that it has today increased its presence in and around the Government Buildings and in Labasa.

A Radio Fiji news midday today quoted military spokesman, Alipate Mataitini saying that this was a routine exercise and nothing to become paranoid about. The military had reduced its presence around the Government Buildings about 2 weeks ago.

Observers have noted heavier than usual military presence at checkpoints in Suva, and in other places around the country. Rumours of a possible military intervention are rife in the capital city. Radio Fiji reported that while shops were open in Suva, tension was high in the city.

It is understood that the military inquiry into the role of some senior officers has revealed that some senior officers were not only aware of the terrorists planned activity before 19 May, but also aided and abetted this. Labour Party's President, Mrs. Jokapeci Koroi was quoted in yesterday's Fiji Sun that some senior officers knew of the terrorist take-over. She said she called the military as soon as she heard of noises in the Parliament Chamber, but the officer who answered the call said "the military knew what exactly was happening". Today's Fiji Sun, in a page one article, discusses whether one time military spokesperson, Lt. Col. Filipo Tarakinikini has been suspended from the post. Military spokesman, Howard Politini dismissed claims of the suspension as mere gossip.

Earlier this week, the prosecution withdrew charges of treason from 9 members of the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit of the military who were involved with the invasion of the Parliament. Today's Fiji Sun has given a scathing attack on the prosecution decision saying the decision "will shake the very fabric of our society". Questions have been raised on whether it was proper to transfer the 9 to be tried by the military court when the military had sacked them and stated that they were to face the full brunt of the law as civilians.


Restore 1997 Constitution: Coalition to Interim President

Issue No: 112; 13 October 2000

The Peoples Coalition has asked the Interim President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo to restore the 1997 Constitution and pave the way for the formation of a government under the provisions of the 1997 Constitution.

The Coalition delegation met the Interim President yesterday 12 October for about 2 hours. The meeting follows a written proposal which the Peoples Coalition had sent to Ratu Iloilo about 3 weeks ago.

The delegation informed the Interim President that the formation of a government of national unity under the provisions of the 1997 Constitution is the only way in which the credibility of the nation can be restored.

The parties agreed to have another meeting after Ratu Iloilo considers the proposal in greater detail.


Landowners Demand $7.7m for School

Issue No: 111; 13 October 2000

Landowners of land on which the Ratu Kadavulevu School is built are demanding $7.7m from the state.

The School, an exclusively ethnic Fijian boarding school for privileged children, was closed numerous times when landowners blocked the entrance of the school. The school started its third term a week late. Landowners' spokesman, Uraia Tuidama is quoted by today's Fiji Times as saying that they had allowed the school to open,

"[b]ut if we see that the relevant authorities are not going to keep to their words, then we might close the school again".

Tuidama told the Times that they have met with the Native Lands Trust Board Manger Maika Qarikau who has assured them that the landowner demands would be met. Tuidama stated: "What we heard is that the NLTB has agreed to the $7.7m but the government wants to cut down this figure".

The Kadavulevu School demand is one of the many demands by the landowners, backed by the NLTB, for funds from the state or developers. A $56m payout was recently agreed to by the Fiji Electricity Authority after the landowners took over the Monasavu hydro-generating plant after drugging the soldiers guarding the plant, and held the soldiers hostage.


No anti-Fijian Bill by Coalition: Parliamentary Counsel

Issue No: 110; 13 October 2000

The propaganda by the SVT that the Peoples Coalition Government had tabled numerous bills which were anti-indigenous Fijians is a not supported by facts. So says former Parliamentary Counsel in Fiji, John Wilson.

In an article published in today's Fiji Times (13 October), Wilson, who was responsible for drafting the bills which were tabled, says "only a few minor bills were passed in the latter half of 1999 and not a single bill was passed in the five months up to May 19". While several bills were introduced in Parliament, there was "no pressure to get them enacted". He further writes:

"It should be noted that two of the bills were to give certain lands back to the Native Lands Trust Board. These were bills which the SVT government had sat on for years."

He stated that some bills which were tabled were either not understood by those opposing them like the Native Lands Trust Board, or were given "the deliberate obfuscation" in some quarters.

He states:

Apologists for the Interim Government have mentioned several other Bills in the Peoples Coalition programme which allegedly challenged the authority of the chiefs and undermined indigenous rights, but no particulars are given and I cannot guess what they might be".

Wilson strongly criticised the handling of the Speight invasion of Parliament by Speight by the authorities, questioned the need to remove the 1997 Constitution, and abolish the Parliament. He also referred to the interim regime as "riding on the backs of the traitors by drawing salaries and exercising powers as it lawfully elected", and condemned the moves to bestow political power in the hands of ethnic Fijians only.


13 October 2000.

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