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Fiji wants soldier back from NZ

Published: 10:16AM Thursday April 26, 2001

Fiji police say they want a senior military officer who recently joined the New Zealand army to returm home because of information he may have about the real ringleaders of last year's coup.

The former commanding officer of the Third Fiji Infantry Regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Viliame Seruvakula, said in a television interview before leaving that he had intellegence information about the identities of the people who plotted the coup.

Lieutenant Colonel Serevakula said the group was made up of businessmen, politicans, senior army officers and former senior army officers and that a report on them had been sent to the President's Office.

He said the public had a right to know who was involved in the coup and it made him sick to see them walking around free.

Lieutenant Colonel Seruvakula took up a job as a senior instructor in the New Zealand army this month.

Now the police officer in charge of coup investigations, Inspector Waisea Tabakau, has told the Fiji Times the New Zealand Government would be approached to help bring Lieutenant Colonel Seruvakula back.

Inspector Tabakau was earlier reported to have said "people should come to the police with information like that, and not blurt it out to the media."

Meawhile, army spokesman Lieutenant Ilaisa Tagitupou says Lieutenant Colonel Seruvakula's views do not reflect those of the army.

He says police now have the sole responsibility for keeping law and order as well as any investigations into the coup.

Appeal for unity in Fiji

The Chairman of Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs, Ratu Epeli Ganilau, has appealed to indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians to work towards national reconciliation and unity.

The Daily Post reports that Ratu Epeli's appeal comes just ahead of Thursday's meeting of the chiefs to discuss indigenous Fijian unity in the face of increasing political fragmentation.

Ratu Epeli says Indo-Fijians are Fiji citizens with the same rights as indigenous Fijians and all that is needed between the two races is understanding of each other's cultures, traditions and lifestyles.

He says the Great Council of Chiefs is not only for the indigenous population but for all the people who live in the country.

Ratu Epeli says Indo-Fijians should note that the Council has always respected and recognised them, and demonstrated this by upholding and respecting the Appeal Court's decision on the validity of the 1997 Constitution.

On Fijian unity, Ratu Epeli says this is entirely dependent on indigenous politicians' ability and willingness to learn from the past, and sacrifice personal gain for the good of the nation.

He says it is likely that the chief's meeting will come up with resolutions for major Fijian parties to come together for the August general election.

Ratu Epeli says Fijian political fragmentation has been the cause of fiji's instability, but if the politicians don't co-operate, the status quo will remain.

Ban on Indian taxi drivers may go to court

The Fiji Taxi Union says a freeze on Indo-Fijians entering the industry is illegal and they are taking legal action over it.

The Land Transport Authority has frozen the applications of 518 Indo-Fijians who want to become taxi drivers.

The previous interim administration in Fiji issued a blueprint which included policies to ensure better indigenous Fijian representation in some key industries. One of those targeted was the taxi industry, which is dominated by Indian drivers.

The freeze means 518 Indian applications for permits are not being considered. But Rishi Ram, the secretary of the Taxi Union, says the Appeal Court's upholding of the 1997 Constitution last month means the quota policy is null and void.

The National Federation is supporting the legal action, but a spokesman for the Land Transport Authority says it is following a cabinet directive.

Land scam targets Indian farmers

An Indo-Fijian rights group has warned cane farmers against taking up offers from people posing as licensed immigration consultants.

The warning was issued by the People's Organisation for Indo-Fijian Rights and Land Resolution after a Canadian immigration lawyer promoted a scheme to settle displaced cane farmers in Guyana.

Chair Dr Niraj Yadav says there is an increase in the number of rogue immigration consultants proposing schemes to countries traditionally hostile to Indians.

He says while there are legitimate consultants, others are trying to cash in on the plight of the hundreds of farmers who have been forced from the land.

New plan to close education gap

Fiji's caretaker administration has unveiled a new blueprint designed to close the longstanding education gap between indigenous Fijians and other races.

The blueprint promotes affirmative action for indigenous education and was launched by the prersident, Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

It is a set of policies aimed at improving Fijian education, particularly raising achievement levels.

The ten-point affirmative plan, to be implemented over ten years, will include such things as upgrading the quality of Fijian teachers, improving facilities, providing better incentives for teachers in rural schools and the development of distance education.

The poor achievement level of indigenous Fijians and the holders of Ministry of Fijian Affairs scholarships compared with students of other races is a perennial concern to Fijian leaders and institutions.

The problem has been seen since colonial times but numerous attempts to close the education gap have not succeeded.

Rabuka may be sued over drunk drive case

A report from Fiji says the caretaker administration is likely to sue former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, or the woman friend who was driving his car when it crashed into the gates of the President's official residence in the early hours of Sunday morning.

The president's permanent secretary, Colonel Jeremia Waqanisau, has told Fiji TV that the Public Works Department has been given the go-ahead to assess the damage and cost of repair.

A government official is quoted as saying the PWD will seek damages.

The woman driver of Rabuka's new Mercedes car, Fiji golf representative, Sala Gardiner, is alleged to have been drunk and to have fled the scene after the accident.

Fiji's newspapers have raised a spate of questions about why she was treated differently from other drunk driving cases and not prosecuted immediately.

Police now say she will be questioned on Thursday and charges laid.