back to new archives for 15-17 June 2000
Saturday, 17 June, 2000, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Fiji rebels to help rewrite constitution

Speight's supporters will not be given place in government.

The military authorities in Fiji say rebel gunmen holding hostage members of the elected government will help draft a new constitution.

But a military spokesman, Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini, repeated that there would be no place for the coup leader, George Speight, or his supporters, in an interim civilian government the military intends to set up.

Mr Speight has been holding 31 hostages, including Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, inside parliament for a month. The rebels are demanding stronger constitutional guarantees for indigenous Fijians.

The military spokesman said that the army sympathised with the aims of the gunmen, but that the concerns of all Fiji's racial communities would be
carefully considered in the new constitution.

Timetable for democracy

When the hostages are finally released, the military government proposes to appoint a new civilian administration to guide the country back to democracy
within two years.

A separate body would draw up a new constitution. This would include some of the armed rebels.

The BBC's Phil Mercer in Fiji says it is likely key elements of the multi-racial
constitution drafted in 1997 will not be included, causing further anger and dismay within the international community.

Colonel Tarakinikini said opinion from across Fiji's racial divide would shape
the new document.

"We sympathise with the cause of the indigenous Fijians. We will make sure that all their aspirations, all their fears are covered in a new constitution.

"But beyond that we cannot, for the sake of our God, ignore all the people in our country. We must take into consideration all the people in this country," Colonel
Tarakinikini said.


There have been some areas of agreement in the talks between army and rebels towards forming a civilian administration.

The military spokesman said Mr Speight had submitted a list of potential members of a civilian government. Some of the suggestions were acceptable
to the military, and were being considered.

Colonel Tarakinikini said the rebel leader's name was not on the list, and neither were any of his group.

"The composition of the interim government must be left to us. We cannot
surrender the fate of the country to Mr Speight and his group."


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last revision June 18, 2000