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Fiji Rival Groups Agree to Try to Revive Democracy

September 23, 1987|From Times Wire Services

SUVA, Fiji — Rival political parties agreed Tuesday to form a caretaker Fiji government to work toward restoring democracy in this South Pacific island nation.

The agreement followed four rounds of talks between the Indian-dominated coalition parties of deposed Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra and the Fijian-supported Alliance Party of Kamisese Mara.

The new bipartisan government would work toward solving the constitutional crisis precipitated by a military takeover on May 14, the two sides said in a joint statement.

Fiji is now ruled by an interim administration headed by Governor General Penaia Ganilau, who invited Bavadra and Mara to join in efforts to restore democratic rule.

Ganilau said in a statement that the coup leader, Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, now commander of the Fijian military, has given assurances of support for the caretaker government.

The military coup followed Fijian agitation against Bavadra's newly elected government, which gave ethnic Indians a dominant political role for the first time. Indians slightly outnumber indigenous people in a population of 714,000 spread over 300 islands.

The statement said the caretaker government would examine whether another constitutional arrangement, including power sharing, would suit Fiji better than the British-style parliamentary system.

Meanwhile, police and troops searched for 114 prisoners who broke out of Fiji's main Naboro jail after setting fire to prison buildings Tuesday. Police said the escapees were armed with cane knives, forks and spades.

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