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Fijians Consider Breakaway Government

May 24, 1987|From Times Wire Services

SUVA, Fiji — Supporters of ousted Fijian Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra threatened Saturday to set up a breakaway government in this South Pacific island nation to rival a 19-member council of advisers that will run the government until new elections are held in several months, according to Bavadra aides.

Bavadra had been offered a seat on the advisory council, agreed to Friday by Governor General Penaia Ganilau and the Great Council of Chiefs, the traditional leaders of ethnic Fijians. But Bavadra appeared to rule out his participation in the council, saying at a news conference that it was insulting that only two members of his coalition, which was dominated by ethnic Indians, had been included.

"It was a democratically elected government and as a result of a coup, they kicked me out. Only two is something I cannot imagine. I don't feel like serving because of that," Bavadra said, sitting cross-legged in a simple hut in his home village of Viseisei, about 160 miles north of Suva, on the western "Coral Coast" of Viti Levu, Fiji's main island.

Civil Disobedience

Bavadra, 52, a physician and an ethnic Fijian, said that he was considering a campaign of civil disobedience and a court challenge to the military coup that removed him from power.

Bavadra's aides said that chiefs in the western area of Viti Levu, feeling that Bavadra had been deposed illegally, backed a suggestion to establish a rival government in the area.

The advisory council, headed by Lt. Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, who deposed Bavadra in a bloodless coup May 14, will help rule Fiji until the constitution can be amended and new elections held, possibly within six months. The council is scheduled to meet Monday.

In elections April 11, an Indian-dominated coalition came to power for the first time since Fiji's independence from Britain in 1970, ousting the Fijian-dominated Alliance Party that had ruled for 17 years.

Loss of Culture Feared

Rabuka, fearing the Indian government would erode the political power and culture of the minority native Fijians, seized control of the country, kidnaping Bavadra and 27 government members.

When asked if he thought Fiji could ever recover from the first military coup in the South Pacific, Bavadra said: "It will recover. It will take a very, very long time."

Ganilau had asked Bavadra, his Indian deputy Harish Sharma, and two other Indian leaders to join the 19-man advisory council. Its other members are Melanesian Fijians and a British-born Fijian national.

In Suva, the capital, shops opened Saturday for the first time since ethnic rioting earlier in the week, and native Fijians and Indians shopped together in an uneasy calm.

Evacuation Plans Made

Australia and New Zealand, however, readied contingency plans to evacuate their citizens in case new trouble breaks out.

An Australian navy ship, the Stalwart, steamed into Suva harbor, and New Zealand announced that another ship would join the frigate Wellington, which has been in port since last week.

Australia also ordered a company of 110 soldiers to the tiny Australian possession of Norfolk Island, about 900 miles from Fiji, to assist in any evacuation.

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