Statement by Fijian President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara On PM’s Arrest

This is a statement from the President of Fiji, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

It follows yesterday’s forceful entry of the Fijian parliament and the arrest of the Prime Minister and members of the government.

Statement from Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

I speak to you as your President to bring you up to date with development since armed men forcefully entered Parliament yesterday and took into captivity the Prime Minister and members of his Government.

I will use all the authority and resources at my command to bring about a just and peaceful solution to a tragic chapter in our history.

The government will go to great lengths to avoid a violent confrontation with the attackers who terrorise our nation and threaten the lives of its government.

We wish to see the impasse broken and the captives set free. But we will not bow down to threats and coercion. The perpetrators should not underestimate my unshakeable determination to maintain the integrity and stability of the State and to protect the rights and interests of the people. Let me assure you that the constitution of the Fiji Islands and institutions of the State remain intact.

I have assumed executive authority following the legal declaration of a state of emergency. The disciplined forces are fully meeting their responsibilities as laid out in the constitution and have reaffirmed their loyalty and allegiance. I have been involved in a series of discussion on the law and order situation with the Commissioner of Police Isikia Savua and the acting Commander of the Fiji Military Forces, Colonel Alfred Tuatoka. This morning I conferred again with Mr Savua and Colonel Tuatoka. Also in the talks were Colonel Vatu and the secretary for Home Affairs, former Army Brigadier George Konrote. They reported back to me in this mornings media briefing which spelt out clearly the roles and functions of the disciplined forces in the current crisis.

We have discussed other aspects of the security situation and made decisions on how we intend to respond.

The Chief Justice has expressed the full commitment of the Judiciary and the Constitution I uphold and there has been a similar undertaking on behalf of the Civil Service from Mr Anare Jale, secretary of the public Service Commission.

Expressions of support have also come from many other people, including the Tui Ba, from Sorokoba, who said that he had spoken to a number of chiefs from his own Province, and from Ra. The Tui assured me that he and those he had spoken to are standing by the legal government.

I must pay tribute to the former Prime Minister and current Chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs, Major general Sitiveni Rabuka for the part he is playing in attempting to find a way forward. Major General Rabuka has emerged as a trusted and invaluable mediator between the government and the terrorist group.

He is working tirelessly to persuade Mr Speight and his band to lay down their arms, free the captives and withdraw from Parliament as an essential first step to entering into further dialogue. I wish to speak directly to the Fijian people about the concerns which have been expressed by so many of them in recent times. You have my personal guarantee as the executive head of the Republic that the issues you have raised will be dealt with fully and that your position as the indigenous community will be protected and enhanced.

I was saddened to see so many of my own people taking part in the disgraceful looting and destruction of property in Suva. What happened will be remembered as a day of shame. Normally respected people, perhaps encouraged by hoodlum elements, became criminals who ran amok among shops and streets of our capital city. The police are now moving to prosecute some of those apprehended.

My fellow citizens of the Fiji Islands, this is not the first time we have followed the road embarked upon by Mr Speight and his group of supporters. We went down a similar road in 1987 and it led us nowhere. Armed intervention and attempted coups are not the way to reach political and economical goals.

Mr Speight and those who have been misled into supporting him in the Parliamentary Complex must recognise the reality of the situation and act accordingly while there is still time. I wish to ask you all to join with me in praying for our homeland that it may be healed and reconciled, and that the people may come together in the desire for peace.

Let us turn our faces against the evil of those who see guns and violence as a mean of achieving their ends.

Good night and God bless our land.

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