4 Dec 2006

Still time to resolve crisis through dialogue - Fiji Opposition Leader

4:11 pm on 4 December 2006

While Fiji waits to see whether the military commander will follow through his threats to topple the government, there are plans for a special cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The ministers are to focus on just one item - the demands by the military commander.

The opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says there's been speculation that the president will dissolve parliament and that will pave the way for an interim administration to be put in place.

But, Mr Beddoes says the government is still functioning.

"Obviously, the prime minister is still there, he's not removed, his cabinet is still intact, the cabinet ministers are still operating. I mean, I'm still functioning as the opposition leader, I'm a member of parliament. Parliament is still undissolved, therefore parliamentary authority still exists as far as I'm concerned."

The foreign minister, Kaliopate Tavola, also says the prime minister is in full control of the governance of the country.

Why should we resign? We've just been in government only a few months. We have got the mandate of the people, a popular mandate given to us. There is still the support of the people with the government at the moment. There is no reason to resign.

Mr Beddoes says if the commander is unhappy with the prime minister's response to the military's demands, there is still time for further dialogue, if Commodore Banimarama is willing.

The bottom line is, he's the one with the weapons so obviously he's calling the shots, if you will. And, of course, whoever has 4,000 guns in this coutnry, will wage a fair bit of authority so it's really the commander's call.

The chairman of Fijis Public Service Commission, Stuart Huggett, says public servants are continuing to show up for work despite the sense of unease.

He says its debatable whether they would take orders from an illegal government and the prospect of an interim administration is of concern.

Signing up for their interim government is like signing up for a jail term. I can't believe that anyone in their right mind would actually do that. I mean, the sort of people who might do that would not actually be the sort of people one would want to have running a government.

The impasse has already had a very negative effect on the countrys no.1 earner - tourism.

The CEO of the Fiji Visitors Bureau, Bill Gavoka, told Radio Fiji that 50,000 jobs are at risk and their target of earning 1 billion Fiji dollars by 2007 is now like a mirage.

Because of the bouyancy in the industry over the last 3 or 4 years, a lot of investors have built new hotels in this country. These hotels now will remain empty for most of 2007 and 2008.

Solidarity for the government has been expressed by the Forum Foreign Ministers but Mr Tavola was asked whether or not that was enough and if muscle was needed to back up the government against the military.

We haven't got to that stage yet, when we get to that stage, there are possibilities we can explore.

The costs to the country are continuing to mount as the military remains staunch about its demands.