22 Dec 2006

Fiji chiefs extend their meeting in hopes of finding a solution to the country's political crisis

7:00 am on 22 December 2006

Fiji's Great Council of Chiefs has been unable to find a resolution to the current crisis despite two days of talks.

It has extended its meeting into a third day today in the hope of finding a solution.

The Great Council has reaffirmed its November resolution to uphold the rule of law and the Constitution.

But they have rejected the military commander's assumption of executive authority as the head of state after his December 5th coup.

Instead the chiefs maintain Ratu Josefa Iloilo is still the legally appointed president and Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi the vice president.

And there has been no direct discussion between the chiefs and the military on the issues under consideration.

There were also reports of a split among the chiefs along confederacy lines with Kubuna and Burebasaga on one side and Tovata, which covers Vanua Levu and Lau, on the other.

The head of the Tovata confederacy and deposed lands minister who served a jail sentence last year, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, did not attend any sessions of the chiefs' meeting.

As well, there were also reports of heated arguments and a strong exchange of words between some chiefs.

There were no indications last night whether the military would accept whatever the chiefs decide.

The military spokesman, Major Neumi Leweni, was quoted as saying the chiefs have no powers to grant immunity, the military has not been consulted and it will continue with its plans despite opposition.

Major Leweni said what the Great Council of Chiefs is doing is irrelevant and they should not be taken seriously.