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Prime Minister Freed, Says He's in Charge in Fiji

May 20, 1987|Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji — Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra was freed unharmed by his military captors Tuesday night, and he vowed to regain control of the government from the soldiers who overthrew him last week.

Bavadra, his 11 Cabinet ministers and the 16 other members of his government were released 12 hours after Governor General Ratu Penaia Ganilau said on army-controlled radio that he had dissolved Parliament and would call new elections.

Ganilau said his plans have the approval of Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, who raided Parliament with 10 masked soldiers last Thursday, seized 28 leaders of this South Pacific archipelago and kept them under house arrest.

The action by the governor general, who represents Queen Elizabeth II in this former British colony, appeared to be a face-saving means of ending the political crisis.

Bavadra told his followers that "we are still the legitimate government" and he does not accept Ganilau's right to dissolve Parliament.

Despite the apparent compromise, soldiers guarded government buildings and radio stations and patrolling the streets.

The big losers in the political compromise appear to be Bavadra, an ethnic Fijian, and his government, in which ethnic Indians were the majority.

They will have to run in a new election under a constitution that probably will be amended to favor ethnic Fijians, who constitute 47% of the nation's 715,000 people. Ethnic Indians make up 49%. The others are mostly of European and Far Eastern descent.

Rabuka, 38, said he overthrew the left-leaning Bavadra government because it was dominated by Indians and he wanted to protect the ethnic Fijian way of life.

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