FIJI: SPEIGHT AND MILITARY STAND OFF CONTINUES

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Published at : 21 Dec 2020
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The stand off between rebel leader George Speight and Fiji's military continues - with no immediate prospect of the hostages being freed.



And although the situation is apparently calm, coup leader Speight has warned the military of serious reprisals if soldiers shoot at his gunmen.



Commonwealth foreign ministers are due to visit Fiji on Friday to seek a peaceful solution to the crisis that has gone on nearly three weeks.



Speaking to reporters, George Speight lashed out at Australia saying it should look at its own record on Aboriginal rights before interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs.



Coup leader George Speight says he's holding onto hostages to ensure an ethnic Fijian interim government - and not the army - is appointed to steer Fiji back to democracy.



Speight and his rebels are demanding more power for Fiji's indigenous majority.



The army, which took control of the Pacific island nation last week, has set up roadblocks around parliament.



But in another sign of rising tension among Fijian coup leader George Speight's supporters, a police officer was savagely beaten on Thursday.



He was briefly detained at parliament where gunmen are holding 31 hostages.



Speight says despite an air of calm - the situation is liable to explode into violence at the least provocation.



SOUNDBITE: (English)

"We're in a coup situation, don't forget. We're in a coup situation, I hold hostages and whilst all semblance of laid back lifestyle and attitude exists throughout most of this complex don't forget we are in a situation of stress. Fijians have been upset about many things going on in their country and things could get out of hand from time to time."

SUPER CAPTION: George Speight, Coup Leader



A four-man Commonwealth delegation is due in Fiji possibly as early as Friday to seek an end to the crisis, but it was not clear if the team planned to meet Speight.



The coup leader said the Commonwealth, an organisation of Britain and its former colonies, had a terrible history of dealing with issues of indigenous rights.



He called on Australia to look at its own backyard before condemning his actions in Fiji.



SOUNDBITE: (English)

"My advice to Mr Downer is that perhaps he should stay home in Australia and attend to ethnic problems there before he condemns my efforts on behalf of my people here in Fiji. Mr Downer should know that whilst he'll always be welcome in Fiji he should not take that as a sign he can make any positive contribution or impression on the current crisis in Fiji. I believe that it is ministers like Mr Downer that give Australia its big bully reputation in the Pacific and he should be ashamed of his government's pathetic record on ethnic issues manifested by the continued neglect of Aboriginal affairs. In fact I would suggest Mr Downer and the Prime Minister John Howard ask Aboriginal leaders what they think of George Speight's efforts for the Fijians in Fiji before he comments further on Fiji's current situation."

SUPER CAPTION: George Speight, Coup Leader



The Commonwealth has suspended Fiji from its councils in retaliation for the government crisis.



Meanwhile, Western Fijian chief's met to discuss a resolution to the crisis.



They reportedly named a new prime minister and interim government - but details are not yet know.





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