back to new archives for 15-17 June 2000
Australian Broadcasting Co.
This Bulletin: Sat, 17 Jun 2000 9:39 AEST
Timetable set to end Fijian crisis

Fiji's military government has set a timetable to restore democracy and
hold fresh elections within two years.

The military ruler, Frank Bainimarama, has briefed the Commonwealth on
the planned return to constitutional rule.

A Commonwealth delegation left Fiji last night with assurances that the
military regime is committed to reinstating democratic government under a
multiracial constitution that upholds the rights of both Indian and indigenous Fijians.

The Commodore has also pledged to establish a civilian government as
soon as the coup leader, George Speight, releases his 31 hostages.

He has again ruled out any role for Mr Speight in the interim government.

But Australia's Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, who was part of the
delegation, says two years is still too long and the military leaders should
aim for a much faster return to democracy.

"It is very important that Fiji returns to democracy as quickly as possible,"
he said.

"As quickly as possible means precisely that. If it could happen much
more quickly than two years we'd be pleased and we urge that on
Commodore Bainimarama and I hope he takes note of that."

The 31 hostages are now into their fifth week in captivity.

Fiji's Labour Ministry says more than 4,000 workers in Fiji have lost their
jobs since the crisis began, with most in tourism, manufacturing and textiles.

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