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GCC Refutes Claim That It Wants Qarase To Continue

Issue No: 582 14 March 2001

The Great Council of Chiefs has refuted claims that it wants Qarase to continue.

In a statement, the Chairman of the GCC, Ratu Epeli Ganilau stated: "Individual members of the Council have expressed their support for Mr Qarase and his Interim Government. However, the choice of a Caretaker Government, should His Excellency deem it necessary will entirely be his prerogative."

A large push has been made by the Qarase regime to stay in power despite the court ruling. Ratu Epeli confirmed that Qarase had sough the advice from lawyers who recommended that the GCC reject the Court decision. Answering media question on the GCC's response to the opinion submitted by the two groups of ethnic Fijian lawyers, Ratu Epeli responded: "Firstly allow me to correct the misunderstanding. The Legal Opinion referred to was not requested by the GCC Secretariat it was requested by the PM. The Chiefs considered the papers submitted by the Interim Government and its Secretariat". He further stated that these opinions were not considered by the GCC.

The statement confirms that Qarase had sought the advice of lawyers for have been involved with terrorists, and that he presented their view to the GCC. This also lends weight to the view that Qarase and some in his group want to cling to power at any cost to the nation. This group has been using the state owned Daily Post to advance their cause.

In his response to media questions, Ratu Epeli also stated that the GCC had left the matter of the path forward in the hands of the President HE Ratu Josefa Iloilo. Whether he accepts the advice from the Parliament to call for an early election or not is for his to decide, said Ratu Epeli.

Ratu Epeli further stated that it was his opinion that the "best way forward for Fiji is the one that will ensure that we all go forward together as a Nation and not as separate groups based on ethnicity or political affiliation."

END 14 March 2001

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