INDEPENDENT NEWS

Coup Leader Rejects Military Cabinet

Published: Tue 4 Jul 2000 11:45 AM
Fiji coup leader George Speight has rejected the military’s choice of interim government saying he does not recognise the authority of the administration.
Yesterday, the military moved unilaterally to name Fiji’s new Prime Minister and cabinet, after negotiations with the rebels over the composition of the new Government reached a deadlock last week.
New Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was appointed yesterday evening and his 12 member cabinet were sworn in at a ceremony this morning.
Currently, Military Head Commodore Frank Bainimarama has taken many of the powers of president, appointing the new regime, which he says could govern for up to two years.
Mr. Speight has called on the people of Fiji to reject the military's selection saying it was a “band-aid” solution - unacceptable because there was no input from his group.
Speight insists the appointment of his choice of Ratu Josefa Iloilo as president will result in the safe release of the hostages.
Unions and women groups have also criticised the membership of the new cabinet, saying the appointments, which included no women or ethnic-Indians MPs, are not representative of the wider Fijian community.
A spokesperson for the Fijian Women’s Crisis Centre said the move was a “slap in the face” to women’s efforts at peace building in the country. There were eight women MPs in former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry’s elected Labour government, two of whom had cabinet positions.
The Fijian Trade Union Congress is also concerned that the new Minister of Labour is unsuitable for his position. The military's choice, Hector Hatch, was previously the head of the Fijian Employers' Federation.
"The unions will now fight a bigger battle and we feel that he is not the right person as far as the protection of workers' rights goes," said Congress president Daniel Urai
Meanwhile, the relatives of Laisenia Qarase were quietly his appointment as Prime Minister in his home village of Vanuabalavu last night.

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