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The BBC's Jonathan Head
"Fiji now faces international isolation"
 real 28k

Rebel leader George Speight
"Our rights come above everything else"
 real 28k

Fijian military spokesman, Col Filipo Tarakinikini
"The rebels have substantial political support"
 real 28k

Friday, 2 June, 2000, 13:54 GMT 14:54 UK
Fiji faces Commonwealth expulsion
A New Zealand Maori lends his support to Mr Speight
A New Zealand Maori lends his support to Mr Speight
Britain has warned Fiji it could be suspended from the Commonwealth if any new government is formed without abiding by the constitution.

The warning came after the Fijian rebel leader, George Speight, said he was ready to release more than 30 hostages following a political deal with the military.

My plan is to release them before the Great Council of Chiefs meeting on Monday

George Speight

The captives, who include elected ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, have been held in the parliamentary complex for two weeks.

They were seized after Mr Speight stormed the building claiming political power for indigenous Fijians.

Mr Speight said the hostages would be freed before Fiji's powerful council of traditional chiefs meet on Monday to try to resolve the crisis.
Fiji military
The military imposed martial law on Monday

But Britain and Australia said Fiji could still face expulsion from the Commonwealth if its new rulers do not return the country to democratic constitutional government.

Members of the Commonwealth are meeting in London next week to discuss the situation in Fiji.

'Shackled'

Mr Speight said on Friday that indigenous groups had often been "shackled by democracy" in other countries and only Fijians should be involved in the government

But John Battle, a junior minister at Britain's Foreign Office, said this would mean Indians, who form about 44% of the population, would be "written out of the script all together".
George Speight
Mr Speight wants power for indigenous Fijians

"That tears up Fiji's democratic constitution," he added. "We want to see respect for the democratic process, democratic rights."

Mr Battle said the country had "paid a very high price" after the last coup in 1987 which lead to Fiji being locked out of the Commonwealth for 10 years.

But Mr Speight said he was not worried about the prospect of another suspension. "That's fine. I've no problem with that. They've suspended us before, and it doesn't faze me one bit."

Australia has said it would support Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth.

And it warned other punitive actions could include trade, defence, diplomatic and sporting sanctions.

The United States has also told Fiji it risks losing US aid and could face other sanctions if it fails to restore constitutional government.

Chiefs

Mr Speight and Fiji's military leaders, who declared martial law last Monday, have agreed to present rival proposals to the Council of Chiefs on Monday.

The two options are to let the military run Fiji until a new constitution is drawn up and elections called, or allow a civilian government led by Mr Speight to guide the country to elections.

Both sides have said they will respect the council's decision.

Military spokesman Captain Volavola said earlier that Mr Speight or some of his supporters may be invited to play a role in a new government.

But he added that the coup leader would be unlikely to become prime minister.

Mr Speight says he is confident that the elders will support his view that the government should be dominated by indigenous Fijians.

Despite the deal, a group of Mr Speight's supporters armed with clubs and sticks, skirmished with soldiers and police, outside the gates of the parliament building on Friday.

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See also:

02 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: What now for Fiji?
02 Jun 00 | Media reports
Indian media views Fiji 'nightmare'
02 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji hostages 'free by Monday'
01 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji hostage 'breakthrough'
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
In pictures: Fiji stand-off
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