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Fiji Strongman Stages 2nd Coup : Says He Acted to Guard Rights of Ethnic Fijians

September 25, 1987|Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji — Military strongman Sitiveni Rabuka today staged his second coup in less than five months, saying he wanted to safeguard the rights of the minority ethnic Fijian population.

Rabuka, a 39-year-old ethnic Fijian who appointed himself head of the army at the time of his May 14 coup, announced in a nationwide broadcast that his forces had "reasserted their authority over the government of Fiji."

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

When he mounted the coup in May, Rabuka said he deposed Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra and his Indian-dominated Cabinet to restore political power to ethnic Fijians, a 47% minority. Indians, descendants of British indentured sugar plantation labor, make up 49%.

An interim government was appointed after the May coup, but Rabuka said he staged today's takeover because he was unable to alter the constitution to protect the rights of ethnic Fijians.

Governor General Ratu Penaia Ganilau, who represents Queen Elizabeth II in this former British colony, had headed the interim government, assisted by a council of advisers that included Rabuka.

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