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The BBC's Jim Fish
"The guns are silenced and surrendered"
 real 28k

Lt Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini
"Today's events illustrates the way things are going to be resolved"
 real 28k

Rebel leader George Speight
"There will never be an Indian led government in Fiji"
 real 28k

Friday, 14 July, 2000, 09:53 GMT 10:53 UK
Fiji returns to civilian rule
Mr Speight and rebel guns
The rebels are handing in their guns
Fiji has been formally returned to civilian rule following the two-month hostage crisis, but international calls for the full restoration of democracy are growing.

On Thursday, nationalist rebel leader George Speight released members of the country's elected government whom he had held at gunpoint for 56 days.
Indian shopkeeper
Fiji's Indians have little to gain from a pro-Speight government

But the rebels' actions, aimed at stripping power from ethnic Indians in favour of indigenous Fijians, have been widely condemned.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon said the time was now ripe for Fiji to rebuild its international reputation sullied by the armed coup.


Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs has now appointed two men sympathetic to Mr Speight to leading roles in a new government.

Ratu Jope Seniloli is the new vice-president, joining President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

A military spokesman said the new vice-president had indigenous interests at heart.

Deposed Fiji PM Mahendra Chaudhry
Deposed prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry: Released after 56 days
But moves to placate the rebels continue to attract criticism.

"These people have committed an act of terrorism and should be brought to justice," said Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, adding that he regretted the amnesty which has been given to Mr Speight and his men.

British Foreign Office Minister John Battle added: "We are dismayed that the hostage-takers appear to have been given an amnesty and a role in forming the new administration, when they should be brought to justice for their criminal actions."


Meanwhile, the rebels have been handing over their weapons to the army.

At a traditional Fijian forgiveness ceremony inside Suva's parliamentary compound, Mr Speight handed over some 60 automatic weapons, 14 handguns, landmines and gas masks.

56 day crisis
May 19: Parliament stormed, more than 50 hostages taken
May 20: George Speight declares himself interim PM
May 28: Speight supporters riot in Suva killing one policeman
May 29: Military declare martial law and assume power
June 28: After several deadlines to free hostages ignored, military says it will rule for 2 years
July 4: Rebels and army fight gun battle outside parliament
July 9: Speight signs accord leading to eventual release of hostages

"This is not the end. This is the beginning. There is much work to be done in this country," said Mr Speight.

"My objective was not to come and take power. My objective was to restore power into the hands of indigenous Fijians."

The new president will name his government in the coming days. Analysts say it is expected to include both moderates and radical supporters of Mr Speight.

Mr Speight, who says he does not wish to be included in the new government, wants his nominee, Ratu Epeli Kanaimawai, as the next prime minister.

The rebels stormed the parliament in mid-May, demanding an end to political domination by the ethnic Indian community, who make up just under half the islands' population.

Mr Speight said he would take the same action if Fiji was ever led by Indians again.


After his release, Mahendra Chaudhry - deposed as Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister - said he expected to continue in a leadership role, but that this was for the people to decide.

I have no animosity towards [Mr Speight]. I have no ill feelings. I am a forgiving person

Mahendra Chaudhry

He said the priority now was to get Fiji back on its feet, adding that he had no ill feelings towards Mr Speight.

The release of 27 hostages on Wednesday and Thursday followed a deal signed on Sunday, in which the army agreed to scrap the country's multi-racial constitution, depose Mr Chaudhry, and grant the rebels an amnesty.

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See also:

13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Speight: I'd do it again
13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Fiji's long road to recovery
13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Diplomatic caution over Fiji deal
13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Chaudhry fears for Fiji's future
13 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
In pictures: Fiji hostage drama
12 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji hostages tell of ordeal
12 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Future bleak for Fiji's Indians
07 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Speight's hold over Fiji
19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Ethnic split haunts Fijian politics
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