INDEPENDENT NEWS

Ratu Mara Vows To Restore Constitutional Rule

Published: Mon 22 May 2000 08:40 AM
Ratu Mara Vows To Restore Constitutional Rule Peacefully
by Losana McGowan
USP journalism student
SUVA: Fiji's President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, today vowed to restore constitutional rule peacefully and said yesterday's kidnapping of the elected government would be remembered as a day of shame.
"I wish to declare to the nation that I will use the authority and resources at my command to bring about a just and peaceful solution to a sad chapter in our history," he said.
He said the government would go to great lengths to avoid a violent confrontation with attackers who had "terrorised our nation and threatened the lives of the government".
Ratu Mara said he would not bow to threats and coercion.
"The perpetrators should not underestimate my unshakeable determination to maintain integrity and stability of the state and protect the rights and interests of the people of Fiji."
Earlier today, Fiji Television broadcast pictures of Prime Minister Mahendhra Chaudhry and his Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Tupeni Baba, for the first time since they had been seized hostage in Parliament yesterday morning.
The TV report said Mr Chaudhry and Dr Baba were accompanied by George Speight, the leader of the armed gang, to speak to a group of journalists in the Parliament complex to make a short statement.
Mr Speight was reported to have given Dr Baba a written statement to read after a short argument about where the statement should be made.
Dr Baba spoke about reports that President Ratu Mara had asked the army to intervene in the hostage crisis.
He read from the statement and called on the army not to intervene because of the "consequences".
According to Pacnews, Dr Baba clarified the situation before the statement, which he and Mr Chaudhry allegedly wrote, saying they were "not legitimising anything".
Mr Chaudhry was reportedly shouting: "We are not legitimising anything, o.k at this point" as he was being led away with Dr Baba by the hostage takers after the short statement.
Mr Speight, who was reportedly disturbed by the comments, was heard calling for "security, security, security" to take the hostages away.
Mr Chaudhry was reportedly told to "shut up" by one of the hostage takers when he was heard saying, "thank you very much".
In a press report, Mr Speight said they understand that the President has asked the army to intervene.
"This scenario would mean that if shooting will take place, you must expect the worse."
The Western Division remained peaceful until this afternoon, but Radio Fiji reported that several fires have gutted buildings in Rakiraki.
A police officer in Rakiraki told Radio Fiji that New World Supermarket and Courts Fiji outlet were on fire.
The officer said youths have been stoning buildings, including the police station.
A Rakiraki resident, told Radio Fiji, Rakiraki residents had no idea about how the fire started.
+++niuswire
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