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It was ok before 19 May, Qarase admits

Issue No: 216; 21 November 2000

Fiji was headed in the right direction before 19 May, admits interim regime Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

In his speech to launch the National Council for Reconciliation and Unity Qarase stated:

"Before May 19, the economy of the nation was showing great promise. The International relations were very encouraging at the time. The signing of the new ACP/EU Economic Convention, which was to have been known as the Suva Agreement or Convention, was about to take place. We had just been honoured with the peacekeeping duty in East Timor. Our record in peacekeeping duties in Lebanon, Mt Sinai, Kosovo, only to name a few, had been greatly praised.

In the area of sports, achievements in athletics, netball, soccer and rugby, had placed us well ahead of most of our developing neighbours in the Pacific."

Qarase continued:

"On May 19 something went radically wrong that practically dashed all our good records since then. We have slipped back a long way. Our peace-loving nature has turned nasty. What began as a peaceful and orderly march was followed by an unprecedented wave of violence and destruction.

A week later, shooting and killing took place. By then it was clear that hatred was deeply rooted in some of the people involved.

Gradually, during the fifty-five (55) days of negotiation with the rebels, it became clear that there was real division within our various communities.

It was obvious that the good relations, and the gentleness and friendliness for which we are well known throughout the world had evaporated in some quarters."

Qarase usurped power as a result of the 19 May terrorist activities. He has remained adamant that he will not step aside despite the High Court ruling that his regime is illegal.

Meanwhile the regime yesterday filed for a stay order and an appeal against the High Court ruling. The most significant ground for the appeal concerns the standing (locus standi) of the applicant Chandrika Prasad. The regime claims that the court should not have granted Chandrika Prasad a remedy. The regime says it will file other grounds of its appeal later. It is believed that it will rest its case on the issue of effective control. The longer the regime stays in power, the more it can claim that it is in effective control, and thereby legitimate.

The regime also states that it can not prepare its case within the two weeks of this sitting of the Fiji Court of Appeal, and that it wants the hearing to be in the February session. Many observers believe that the regime is playing the delaying tactic so that it can stay in power longer.

On the other hand, it is believed that the former PM, Sitiveni Rabuka, who is now the Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, is planning to get the Chiefs to endorse a multi-party government to replace the Qarase regime. It is believed that Rabuka had, even before the 2 November attempted coup, approached some defeated 1999 election candidates, at least three of them from the defeated NFP, to be on his multi-party government.

END 21 November 2000


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