5 May 2004

Fiji president seriously ill according to Fiji TV

9:00 am on 5 May 2004

Fiji's 83 year old President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, is reported to be gravely ill and is unable to perform the functions of his office.

Fiji TV reports that President Iloilo is under 24 hour medical observation.

The President has been receiving medical treatment in Australia in recent weeks and came back to attend his predecessor, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara's funeral in Lakeba on Monday.

But his doctor sat just one metre behind him during the church service.

The vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, is reported to be performing the functions of the President.

The TV report says the President's Office would not comment, but after the broadcast called to deny that he was in poor health or that Ratu Jope was performing his functions.

Ratu Jope tried to usurp the Presidency by being sworn in as George Speight's head of state immediately after the coup while Ratu Mara was still in office.

His High Court trial on a charge of taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence and another of engaging in a seditious enterprise is scheduled to begin next month.