6 Feb 2007

Fiji Methodists retract coup criticism

5:12 pm on 6 February 2007

Fiji's influential Methodist Church has withdrawn a statement issued in its name last week attacking the military takeover and President Iloilo.

The church's general secretary, the Rev Ame Tugaue, has told Radio Legend the decision was made after church officials said the 20-point statement was not endorsed by church's standing committee.

The unsigned statement had called for President Iloilo to be medically examined and retired and for Commodore Frank Bainimarama to step down as interim prime minister.

Although the Methodist Church had supported the 1987 and 2000 coups, the statement said the December takeover should be viewed as a treasonous act against the state.

It said the use of military power to usurp the mandate of an elected government set a dangerous precedent in the governance of the country.

The Rev Tugaue says the church's Social Services Department headed by the Rev Manasa Lasaro prepared the statement last Friday and rushed it past executives before releasing it to the media and publishing in newspapers.

He said the Rev Lasaro was assisted by the church's assistant general secretary, Rev Tuikilakila Waqairatu, the Rev Iliesa Naivalu and the church's legal adviser and sacked army lawyer, Tevita Bukarau.

The Rev Tugaue says the statement cannot be said to be the real stand of the church because the standing committee has not approved it.

Meanwhile, the Rev Iliesa Kacimaiwai of the Fiji Council of Churches says churches are free to express their opinions on the current situation, they should let any personal agenda mislead them.