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Critics slam 'political' sacking of Rev Yabaki


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CRITICS SLAM 'POLITICAL' SACKING OF REV YABAKI
http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/docs/news/wansolnews/wansol3008016.html

By ATERINA SAMASONI and Staff Reporters: August 30, 2001
Wansolwara Online (USP)


SUVA (Pasifik Nius): The outgoing head of the Methodist Church in Fiji has blamed the sacking of one of the country's key advocates of democracy on his alleged drinking habits in a move being attacked by critics as blatantly political.

Former church president Rev Tomasi Kanailagi alleged on Fiji Television tonight this was the reason for the dismissal of Rev Akuila Yabaki, executive director of the Citizens' Constitutional Forum.

"We only dismissed him because of his drinking in public places and sometimes he misbehaves," Rev Kanailagi told Fiji TV.

He also claimed there had been complaints to the church.

But the forum, an independent NGO that has figured in constitutional lawsuits against the regime of caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, regards the sacking as politically motivated.

Prof Vijay Naidu, chairman of the forum, said the reason given was a lame pretext.

"I think there is certainly an element of politics in this case," he told Fiji TV.

Earlier, he was quoted in the Fiji Sun today as saying that the forum was not surprised by the action taken by the church.

"The Methodist Church should only look at itself and not indulge in pointing at others when it comes to racism," Prof Naidu said.

The Sun said Rev Kanailagi declined to comment on whether Rev Yabaki had been informed of his sacking.

Rev Yabaki is reported to be at a race relations conference in South Africa and is due back in Fiji on September 12.

While he remains director of the forum, he would reportedly no longer perform church ministry duties.

Meanwhile, the Daily Post today lambasted the Methodist Church for mixing politics with its spiritual role.

"Methodist Church congregations, while mainly Fijian, also comprise people of other races," it said in an editorial.

"This bid to cling to power and their apparent belief that populist, nationalist and emotional vitriol will serve them well, hand out dollops of this.

"This is dangerous in any circumstances, but more of a problem in post-1987 Fiji, when the Methodist Church especially, decided to involve itself in politics through demonstrations all in the name of the Heavenly Father."

The paper welcomed the appointment of new president Rev Laisiasa Ratabacaca, describing him as a moderate.

It said the cycle of extremists to moderates needed to be broken because the "flock deserves to be led well".

Wansolwara Online reported police today gave an assurance of peace for the Muaniweni settlement after a brutal upheaval in the area near Suva in the wake of the May 19 coup attempt led to an exodus of Indo-Fijian internal refugees.

A handful of the hundreds of farmers and families who sought refuge at the Girmit Centre in the western town of Lautoka when their properties were destroyed still remain there, fearing a repeat of the "nasty experience".

The community was terrorised by abuse, beatings and looting.

The director of community policing, Senior Superintendent Romanu Tikotikoca, said 16 police officers and one unit of the police mobile force currently maintained security in the area.

"Some of them [Indo-Fijian farmer families] went through very nasty experiences and cannot believe that some of the indigenous people with whom they were brought up together, went to school together, played together, turned against them on that very day," he said .

As polling draws to its final two days, deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry told the Sun that voters should take legal action against the Government as a result of missing names on the electoral roll.

The Daily Post reported a disappointed voter saying "voting is not just placing a tick but an opportunity to have a say in the formation of a new government".

Electoral officials at Adi Cakobau School polling station were confused today when eight women with same name arrived to cast their vote.

Police also arrested a 28-year-old man and charged him with impersonation over an incident at Cuvu polling station.

National Federation Party leader Attar Singh told Wansolwara Online he was optimistic about his chances in the election.

"This year's election seems to be very peaceful compared to previous elections.

"There have been no brawls and people seem to be minding their own business, except for one or two minor differences between the Fiji Labour Party and NFP," he said.

+++niuswire

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