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Chiefs To Decide Rabuka's Fate

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SUVA: The fate of Fiji's 1987 coup leader and former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka as chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs will be decided when the council meets at the Queen Elizabeth Barracks on Thursday, the Sun reports.

Great Council secretary Asesela Sadole confirmed this yesterday, saying the agenda would include the election of the council chair and vice chair positions held by Rabuka and Adi Litia Cakobau.

The Sun reports that some chiefs and political parties want Rabuka removed.

Rabuka has already said he is willing to step down if the council decides that his services are no longer needed.

Critics say Rabuka's reputation has been tarnished by his alleged links to the events of the May 19 coup and the November 2 mutiny.

After the May 1999 general election, Rabuka gave up his parliamentary seat to become council chair.

Last year he faced a stiff challenge from Verata chief Ratu Timoci Vesikula for the chair's position before he pulled through.

Ratu Timoci now heads the GCC committee that looks after the sale of mahogany, a sensitive issue immediately before the attempted coup by failed businessman George Speight.

He is reported by the Sun to be the most likely replacement as chair.

Adi Litia, the vice chair, faces a similar fight for survival after openly supporting hostage taker Speight.

Meanwhile, the Daily Post reports that ultra nationalists leading the "Fijian forum" representing some major indigenous parties have rejected the Court of Appeal's upholding of the 1997 constitution as supreme law.

Forum chair Esira Rabuno, a former University of the South Pacific academic, said indigenous Fijians were disappointed with the court's ruling and would not accept a judgement that threatened their rights in the country they "owned".

"The court's ruling is restricted to only legal issues," Rabuno said.

"With us Fijians, we only recognise the Great Council of Chiefs.

"The council will have the last say. If not, then the country will continue to have problems.

"Definitely, we will also not accept the deposed government. We Fijians feel that five 'foreigners' [Appeal Court judges from Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea] cannot make practical decisions for our country and tell us how to run it.

"We need political solutions and not legal ones from outsiders."

The forum comprises the Soqosoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei (SVT) party founded by Rabuka and defeated in the 1999 elections; Veitokoni ni Lewenivanua Vakarisito (Christian Democratic Alliance); a splinter faction of the Fijian Association Party (FAP); Vanua Tako Lavo (nationalists); Taukei Movement (nationalists); and some independent Fijian candidates.


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