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Coup Leader Says He's Abolished Fiji Constitution

September 29, 1987|Associated Press

SUVA, Fiji — Coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka said Monday he has abolished Fiji's constitution and that a new one will be drawn up to make sure that ethnic Fijians hold the political power in this South Pacific island nation.

Col. Rabuka told a group of foreign diplomats that he will appoint a council of ministers to run the country in the meantime.

Britain has warned that Rabuka's actions could end Fiji's membership in the Commonwealth.

Rabuka seized power Friday for the second time. His first coup was carried out May 14. After the second takeover, he imposed a curfew, closed Fiji's six banks and shut down the two newspapers. Banks were shut to prevent a run on the Fijian dollar and will reopen today, he said.

Military authorities reported that Rabuka also freed most of nearly 200 political prisoners arrested during Friday's coup but kept deposed Prime Minister Timoci Bavadra and three aides in detention.

Diplomats said that naming a council appears to be a prelude to Rabuka's dismissing British Governor General Penaia Ganilau and appointing himself as head of state.

Ethnic Fijians compose about 47% of the country's 715,000 people. Ethnic Indians, descendants of workers imported by the British, compose 49%.

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