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Fiji military chief warns govt against coup amnesty

Written by: Staff
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SUVA, May 18 (Reuters) Fiji's military chief called on Thursday for an ethnic Indian government to rule the racially divided nation, saying he would fight a new indigenous government that sought to grant amnesty to leaders of a coup in 2000.

Indigenous Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase declared a narrow victory in general elections on Wednesday, but he needs to win the one seat still to be counted or secure the support of one of four independents to form a government.

Qarase said his new government, led by the indigenous SDL party, would reintroduce a bill to grant amnesty to those involved in the 2000 coup which toppled the South Pacific island nation's first ethnic Indian prime minister.

Military chief Frank Bainimarama told a news conference in Suva that the military would take the necessary steps to stop the amnesty law being passed. Before the election he had threatened to topple the government if the law was passed.

''Take this message to the SDL camp. We are going to fight them all the way if that is going to be their message whether they become government or not,'' said Bainimarama.

''We will fight these bills if he brings them up again,'' he said, charging Qarase with destabilising Fiji which has had three racially motivated coups and an army mutiny since 1987.

Qarase, whose SDL party has won 35 seats in the new 71-seat parliament and is awaiting the outcome of a final seat which could give it a clean majority, was holding talks with two independents at a secret location in Suva on Thursday.

Opposition leader Mahendra Chaudhry, the ethnic Indian leader toppled in the 2000 coup, has won 31 seats. His Fiji Labour Party is believed to have the support of another two MPs, giving him an effective 33 seats. He would need the support of all four independents and the final seat to take office.

''I am hoping the two independents will go with Labour because Labour will provide us with stability, not SDL,'' said Bainimarama.

''If SDL ever becomes government I hope they will do the right thing by the people of this nation and take away radical issues.'' Indigenous Fijians make up 51 percent of the country's 906,000 population but fear that the economic clout of ethnic Indians, who dominate the economy, will be matched by political power.

Reuters SK GC0708

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