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Monday, 5 June, 2000, 12:09 GMT 13:09 UK
Analysis: Speight's demands
Silhouette of soldier
There are fears that more soldiers could join the coup
By BBC News Online's Justin Pearce

Fiji's military says it is drawing a line which it will not cross in its dealings with coup leader George Speight.

Mr Speight has presented a growing list of demands to the military since his supporters took members of the elected government hostage in the country's parliament building on 19 May.



We cannot surrender this country to them

Army spokesman

The army's Commodore Frank Bainimarama described the most recent set of demands by Mr Speight as a "red herring".

Mr Bainimarama said the real sticking point was Mr Speight's demand for the transfer of executive power to the Great Council of Chiefs - a body which up to now has played a consultative role in the governance of Fiji.


George Speight
Speight: Initial concessions not enough
The military also ruled out Mr Speight's demand that he and his supporters be guaranteed a role in government.

"There is a line we cannot cross," military spokesman Filipo Tarakinikini said.

"We cannot surrender this country to them."

The military command is also concerned by the threat of sanctions by some of Fiji's foreign trading partners if the coup leader were to gain a share in power.

Setting the agenda

The army's refusal to move any further appears to be motivated by a desire to prevent Mr Speight from dictating the political agenda any more than he has done already.



Democracy... has resulted in an Indian government coming to power

George Speight
Commodore Bainimarama has complained that the army met Mr Speight's initial demands, only to see him impose new ones.

The initial demands were:

  • The ousting of the president

  • An amnesty for the coup leaders

  • The removal of the 1997 constitution

Mr Speight's subsequent insistence on a role in government confirmed the worst fears of the military leadership.

The rebels also rejected the army's nomination of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as interim prime minister, on the grounds that he is closely linked to the elected rulers.

'Personal agendas'

Army spokesman Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini said the army had met the demands of the coup leaders - but that the rebels had "moved on to personal agendas".


Frank Bainimarama
Bainimarama: Fears of a backlash
Mr Speight has kept his options open, saying: "I will be whatever my people want me to be."

"My role is to see that the coup state finishes and to ensure legal functions are established that will eventually lead to a constitution that achieves the things I am talking about," he told the BBC.

Mr Speight blamed the crisis on current democratic models.

"Two prominent Fijian leaders have taken Fiji down the road to democracy which has resulted in an Indian government coming to power," he said.

"That Indian government over the last 12 months has embarked on a systematic programme of eroding the rights of Fijians."

His spokesman, Joe Nata, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that the hostages would be released "when we have a solution to the problem" - the "problem" being seen by the rebels as the role of Fiji's Indian minority.

Mr Speight launched his coup attempt in the name of indigenous Fijians who feel themselves to be less privileged than the country's ethnic Indian minority - and the army is aware that his sentiments may be widely shared.


Fijian soldiers
Most soldiers remain loyal to Bainimarama at present
Fear of a popular backlash seems to be a major factor in dissuading the army from taking a stronger line.

Colonel Tarakinikini told the BBC that the coup "has got to be taken in context of the circumstances - particularly the racial and ethnic composition of the country".

He said Mr Speight was championing "a cause that has widespread support among indigenous Fijians".

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See also:

31 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Fiji stand-off
30 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
International dismay at Fiji coup
29 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji army takes to streets
27 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji prime minister sacked
31 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji military backs down over PM
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