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6 Arrested For Planning Mayhem

6Issue No: 160; 30 October 2000

The military has arrested 6 persons who planned to bomb and shoot civilians over the past weekend.

The Military's spokesman, Major Howard Politini told Fiji TV news today (30 October) that the 6 had guns and other devices which they were planning to use during the Diwali long weekend. The 6 belong to various political parties but have close links with George Speight. Politini stated that the group wanted to continue with the activities of 19 May.

Numerous military issued arms are still with terrorists. Escaped prisoner Alifereti Nimacere and terrorist Tevita Poese have also been seen carrying arms. Today's Fiji Times reported that the duo were seen in Lautoka on Friday. Both were armed with rifles.

It is believed that the terrorists still on the lose have re-grouped and are getting some support from politicians, including some close to the interim regime. Reports were lodged to the police earlier of information received by People's Coalition that one prominent politician was possibly involved in plans to harm some key Peoples Coalition members.


NZ, Aust firm on Fiji

Issue No: 159; 30 October 2000

New Zealand and Australia will not attend the next Pacific Forum meeting if it is held in Fiji under the Qarase regime. This was revealed by the Prime Ministers of the two countries at the Forum meeting in Tarawa. Fiji was to host the 2001 Forum meeting. The forum has put off the decision-making on who would host the next meeting by 2 months.

According to a Fiji TV report tonight, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clarke also refused to host a lunch for the Forum leaders because she said she did "not want to play host to" Fiji's interim leader Laisenia Qarase.

The Australian and New Zealand reportedly pushed for a Forum stand on Fiji but this was not accepted. Instead the Forum opted for establishing the Biketawa Declaration, named after the atoll island on which the leaders held their retreat. According to a report by Rowan Callick of the Australian Financial Review, Australia and NZ were happy that the Forum has finally agreed to a framework to deal with internal political upheavals in member countries. The Biketawa Declaration was at first resisted by Fiji's interim PM, Laisenia Qarase but he finally agreed to the Declaration, saying Fiji had been "let off the hook" of a tougher position originally sought by Australia.

Callick quotes the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard as saying: "I am always alarmed, concerned, critical of suggestions that you put race into a constitution."

The Biketawa Declaration commits Forum states to "equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender, race, colour, creed or political belief and in the individual's inalienable right to participate by means of free and democratic political process in framing the society in which he or she lives".

While the Forum decided against taking any action on Fiji this time, and seemed to have accepted the Qarase plan of an election in 18 months, the message for Qarase, who is now trying to write a constitution denying the non-indigenous population political rights, is clear: that he can not deny anyone political rights on the basis of race, colour, gender or political belief.


Terrorist soldiers "did a good job" – Army

Issue No: 156; 29 October 2000

The military has defended the release of the soldiers involved in the terrorist-style take-over of the Parliament on 19 May by saying that they did a good job.

Today's Fiji Times (29 October) quotes military spokesman Major Howard Politini as saying:

"The people should realise that these soldiers were responsible for the security of the hostages in Parliament and they did a good job".

He further stated: "They were well trained and had the power to contain those rowdy and abusive crowd" who went to the Parliament Complex to show support to George Speight.

That these soldiers-turned-terrorists were the ones not only responsible for taking over an elected government, but also for abusing and torturing the hostages for 56 days is of no consequence to the military.

Also, that the "rowdy and abusive crowd" who went to the Parliament Complex went through the numerous military checkpoints outside the Parliament Complex is also of no consequence.

One hostage commented that the release of the terrorists by the military and their re-employment by the army confirm that at least a faction of the military has always been supportive of the terrorists and the removal of the elected government at gunpoint.


Vice President Won't Act as President

Issue No: 155; 29 October 2000

The Interim President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo has decided that he will not appoint Interim Vice-President, Ratu Jope Seniloli to act in his place when he leaves for his medical treatment in Australia tomorrow.

The decision, after long meetings on Friday and Saturday, was taken in light of the general unacceptability of Seniloli to head the highest institution of the land because of his endorsement of terrorist George Speight and his activities. Speight swore in Seniloli as Fiji's President on 20 May. The police are now investigating Seniloli for his involvement with the terrorists. A statement from the Government House stated that the investigation must be allowed to "continue unimpeded and encouraged to take its course".

The Permanent Secretary in the President's Office, Luke Ratuvuki was quoted by today's Fiji Times as saying that the decision that the interim President retains his powers while overseas "was temporary".

There's strong speculation that the chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs and former Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka is vying for the position. He told the media he would take up the position if called upon to do so. The Great Council of Chiefs, which nominates the President, meets towards end of November.

Rumours that Rabuka has been vying for the position have been widespread in Fiji for long. Even the Speight terrorists told the Government members held hostage in the Parliament Complex that the initial plan was that Rabuka was to become the President and now suspended Police Commissioner Isikia Savua was to become the Prime Minister immediately after the 19 May storming in of the Parliament by Speight.


Anti-regime meetings banned

Issue No: 154; 28 October 2000

The interim regime has allowed public meetings to be held by political, social and religious bodies as long as the meetings are open to the military and the police.

The Ministry of Home Affairs states that any political, social, cultural or religious organisation can hold meetings to discuss and prepare their submissions to the regime's Constitution Commission provided four conditions are met. The conditions are, first, that a permit be sought, second, that the discussion be confined to constitutional issues only, third, that the meetings be open to all members of the public including the police and the army, and fourth, that the timing be adhered to and venue specified.

The police/army have reserved the right to determine which matters are within the ambit of "constitutional issues". During the meeting, they can intervene and determine that a matter is not a constitutional matter and thus cancel the meeting. The military intelligence unit and the police special branch have also been gathering information on pro-democratic people and organizations.

By specifying that the police and the military must be allowed in any meeting, and by granting them powers to determine whether a discussion is on constitutional matters, Is not only designed to intimidate the pro-democracy movement in Fiji, but it also effectively bans groups which are opposed to the Qarase regime from holding meetings.


Fiji far from normal

Issue No: 153; 28 October 2000

The interim regime's Attorney General and Minster for Justice, Alipate Qetaki says Fiji is far from normal.

In a letter published today in the Fiji Times (28 Oct), Qetaki wrote: "the presence of the Emergency Decree implies that the situation in Fiji is far from being normal."

This is the real Fiji. Military issued and other illegally acquired arms are still in the hands of terrorists, numerous terrorists and prison escapees are still at large, nightly curfews still continue in Suva, military checkpoints are still present throughout the country, free speech is still not allowed, journalists are taken at gun point and interrogated, hundreds of refugees still stay in refugee camps, massive eviction of small-holder ethnic Indian farmers is continuing, etc.

For once, one Qarase Minister has come out with some truth.

This is in direct contrast to what the regime has been informing investors and other nations. For example, the regime's Commerce Minister only this week told the Australia-Fiji Business Council in Queensland that the political situation in Fiji is already stable. Similarly, Foreign Affairs Minister, Kaliopate Tavola has been telling his overseas counterparts that Fiji is already normal.

These lies are deliberately manufactured to show the world that the international community should accept the Qarase regime and the terrorist activities of May 19 and after.


Regime Continues to Misinform; UK rejects regime statement

Issue No: 152; 27 October 2000

The Qarase regime has continued on the path to misinform the people of Fiji of the positions of the international community, and to misinform the international community of the developments in Fiji.

Latest in the series of misinformation is the claim by the regime that the British government wanted Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth lifted immediately. According to the regime, its Foreign Minister, Kaliopate Tavola received this message from the British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs John Battle. Tavola is also quoted by the regime as saying that the British government has accepted the Qarase plan.

This is a gross lie.

The British High Commissioner, Mr. M A Price, has called the regime statement as "misleading and inaccurate". Price clarified the UK stand in writing where he quoted John Battle's statement as follows:

"In my meeting with Mr. Tavola, I repeated Britain's commitment to ensuring the speedy restoration of constitutional democracy in Fiji. I made it clear that Fiji could not resume its full place in the international community until the Interim Administration had made real progress towards democracy, one that was within the framework of Fiji's 1997 Constitution."

The clarification has not been commented on by the regime.

The international opinion on Fiji is clear: Fiji must restore the 1997 Constitution and ensure that its political conduct is within the framework of the 1997 Constitution.


A Dark Diwali

Issue No: 151; 27 October 2000

It was a dark Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights today (27 October).

Reports from throughout the country show that Diwali was marked by the Hindus by prayers only. Unlike other years, no urban area - capital City Suva, Lautoka, Ba, Nadi, Labasa, Nausori, Sigatoka - had any special decoration. A vast majority of families stayed home and refrained from putting on any special lights or decorations.

The elected Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry had called on the Hindus to spend the day in prayer. He stated: "We have so many people who have become jobless, many are on sever pay cuts, so many children have become school dropouts, and there are many who have become homeless on the expiry of their leases. There is discrimination against one community and people have begun to feel the pinch of that discrimination. People should pray on Diwali, asking God for guidance, unity and courage to fight for evil forces that were at work on May 19"

Similar calls were made by the Hindu religious organizations, and political parties. The NFP also supported the call for prayers for guidance and courage.

All these calls were heeded by the entire Hindu population of the country.

Meanwhile, in his Diwali message, the Indian High Commissioner, Prof I S Chauhan stated: "This year Diwali has a special significance. This is the first Diwali after the descent in May of dark clouds over the country. They left death, destruction and devastation. No family, fraternity or community remained untouched."

The Catholic Church also gave a strong Diwali message. The Church's Archbishop, Petero Mataca, stated that Diwali is "an excellent occasion for a wake-up call for all Fiji Islanders. We must stand up only for the Truth". He said:

"I found the events of May 19th and aftermath effects very disturbing. What I find disturbing is the inability of the actors and participants to accept modern society, the changes that this brings to our lives and the creativity to move forward .. Diwali is an opportune time to affirm the humanity of persons and the different cultural communities in our Fiji society."

Archbishop Mataca further stated that the varied cultures of Fiji "must influence and enrich the whole population of our beloved nation. Trying to affirm a culture in isolation is like preparing its epitaph."

END 27 October 2000

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