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Sanctions Splashed as Cabinet Swearing-in Postponed

19 July 2000

Pasifik Nius

Suva: Fiji newspapers today splashed reports of mounting "smart sanctions" against Fiji in protest over the proposed cabinet line-up which includes two key leaders of George Speight's rebel gang and at least three other Taukei movement hardliners.

But the planned swearing-in of the new interim government today was postponed - with officials saying President Ratu Josefa Iloilo was "not feeling well".

The 32-member interim government was to have been sworn-in this morning at Borron House.

Both of rebel nominees Ratu Timoci Silatolu (Assistant Minister for Health) and Simione Kaitani (Assistant Minister for Regional Development and Multi Ethnic Affairs) did not attend.

Nor did Apisai Tora, leader of the Taukei movement which fuelled the destabilisation of Fiji leading to the May 19 overthrow of elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry's Labour-led coalition government, turn up.

Condemning the line-up, Speight told the Fiji Times that releasing the names without consulting his rebels was "dangerous".

He warned that the administration could expect a backlash.

On Fiji Television last night he said he had been "betrayed".

Speight's supporters left the parliamentary complex today and headed for Kalabo, a village outside Suva with strong affinity to Naitasiri, the rebels' provincial base.

Radio reports said the rebels burned several government cars before leaving.

The military moved into the complex and set up heavily armed positions.

They also inspected the area for bombs and damage.

A photographer described the complex after the rebels' departure in a bus convoy as a "pigsty that no longer looks like a Parliament".

"Seven cars were burned, but the four-wheel-drive Pajero used by the former prime minister was still intact," she said.

The Daily Post reported that New Zealand would not be offering Fiji students any more scholarships under its Overseas Development Assistance (NZODA) scheme.

"There are currently 132 students from Fiji on scholarships in New Zealand who may soon be sent home with a range of sanctions being imposed," the paper said.

The Daily Post cited Miriam Leacock, who is charge of the NZODA programme at the New Zealand High Commission, as saying there were 34 bilateral; students, 91 students on the Aotearoa scheme and seven postgraduate students on scholarships.

Australia yesterday announced cancellation of most non-humanitarian aid programmes to Fiji among limited sanctions stopping short of major trade bans that could devastate its economy.

Speight has been banned from entering Australia, where his two children now live.

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