28 Jul 2005

Fiji's chiefs endorse controversial bill

8:07 pm on 28 July 2005

Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs has endorsed the Qarase government's Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

The endorsement came at the end of a day which saw strong representations against the Bill by Fiji's military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, and the Coalition of Concerned Citizens Against the Bill.

The Great Council's decision follows the endorsement of the Bill by all 14 of Fiji's indigenous provincial councils.

Earlier, in response to questions, Commodore Bainimarama told the chiefs that the military arrested George Speight in 2000 despite the amnesty given under the Muanikau Accord because he did not abide by its conditions.

Radio Legend quotes Commodore Bainimarama as saying Speight and his group did not surrender all the weapons taken from the military and go home.

Instead, he said, Speight and his group had threatened President Iloilo to appoint their nominee as the interim prime minister, or they would burn Fiji down.

But Commodore Bainimarama said the military stood by the president and ensured that his nominee, Laisenia Qarase, was appointed.

The Bill will set up a Commission to fast track amnesty for coup convicts like Speight, erase their criminal records, give immunity to those not yet prosecuted and ask the courts to suspend proceedings against those facing charges.