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Armed Soldiers 'Slow Healing' In Hospital

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SUVA: Patients in Fiji's national hospital were today reported to be more at risk because the sight of armed soldiers in the wards caused anxiety and slowed down healing.

The Fiji Times today quoted the medical superintendent of the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva as saying that the armed troops were creating a "feeling of unease" among patients and staff.

"It would be better if they carried weapons outside the hospital," Dr Salimoni Tuqa told the newspaper.

"It is a different story when [the arms are] taken inside."

Dr Tuqa said heart patients and elderly people who were supposed to be recovering in hospital weakened at the sight of guns.

Military spokesperson Major Howard Politini said the army had been concerned about the security of soldiers, patients and hospital staff since the November 2 mutiny which claimed the lives of eight soldiers. At least 28 people, some civilians, were wounded.

The Fiji Times cited "observers" as saying the reason for heavy security presence at the hospital was because of threats of revenge against soldiers recovering from wounds.

The military installed interim administration confirmed that it would file a lawsuit at Lautoka on Monday seeking a stay order to prevent the execution of the landmark High Court ruling on the 1997 multiracial constitution.

Interim Attorney-General Alipate Qetaki said an appeal had been filed with the Court of Appeal in Suva yesterday, challenging Justice Anthony Gates' judgment on Wednesday that the 1997 document is still the supreme law of Fiji and that the elected Parliament should be reconvened.

In an editorial today, the Fiji Times called for the appeal and stay order to be heard without delay in the interests of law and order in the country.

"Which is the government of the day?" the newspaper asked.

"Is it the interim administration as backed by the military and, apparently, the police?

"Or is it the 1999 Parliament as pronounced by the High Court?

"If we are to have to abide by the rule of law, surely Judge Gates' decision is the law as it stands.

"At the same time, the interim administration is the de facto authority as backed by the security forces.

"And if the same security forces cannot support the law as pronounced by a High Court judge, can they then claim to act in the interests of law and order?"

The Fiji Times said the Appeal Court could end the uncertainty.

"Again we appeal to their lordships: be thorough, but be quick."

Security was today relaxed further in the capital, with the curfew being extended until midnight from tonight.

Major Politini confirmed this after the last rebel soldier on the run was arrested yesterday.


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