Second memorandum submitted by the Foreign
and Commonwealth Office on the attempted coup in Fiji (28 July
1. The Committee have requested a memorandum
on developments in Fiji since 30 June 2000, including the Government's
views on the reported settlement, the steps it intends to take
following the settlement and its view on Fiji's continued membership
of the Commonwealth.
ON 30 JUNE
2. On 30 June, George Speight and his supporters
were still holding 27 hostages in the Parliament complex; and
negotiations were continuing between Speight and Commodore Bainimarama,
leader of the Interim Military Government, over the possible terms
of their release. The security situation around the complex was
tense, with Bainimarama attempting to tighten the military cordon
in order to put pressure on Speight. There were a number of opportunistic
looting and arson incidents across the country, particularly directed
3. Following the decision by the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group on 6 June to suspend Fiji from the Councils
of the Commonwealth, the international community warned of possible
further measures if the new government was unconstitutional or
racially-biased, and if Speight was not brought to justice.
4. On 3 July, Commodore Bainimarama announced
that he had appointed an interim civilian government with Laisenia
Qarase, a banker, as interim Prime Minister. Cabinet members were
mostly professional people with no obvious connections to Speight
or to any political party. Authority was to be exercised jointly
between the new cabinet and the military, which would continue
to be directly responsible for national security. Bainimarama
said that he would remain acting Head of State until the hostages
were released. It was his intention that the interim government
would remain in place for 18 months, pending preparation of a
new Constitution and the holding of elections.
5. There were no Indo-Fijians in Bainimarama's
interim government. The two main Indian opposition parties both
issued strong statements condemning the announcement of the new
interim administration and calling for a return to an elected,
democratic government. Bainimarama confirmed that the 1997 Constitution
(which had been carefully worded so as to enable Fiji to rejoin
the Commonwealth) had been abrogated, and that it would not be
reinstated. He announced that the 1990 and 1997 Constitutions
would be reviewed by the new interim government with the aim of
preparing a new Constitution.
6. Mr Battle issued a statement on 4 July
(the day the new interim administration was sworn in) calling
again for the immediate, unconditional release of the hostages;
reminding the Fijian authorities that, although composed of civilians,
the new administration was no substitute for a democratically
elected government; expressing concern that the 1997 Constitution
had been abrogated; and calling on Commodore Bainimarama to take
urgent steps to restore a democratically elected government, under
an internationally acceptable constitution, which respected the
rights of all Fijians.
7. The UK, along with Australia and New
Zealand, decided to maintain working-level contacts with the new
administration, while making clear that these contacts did not
imply recognition or approval. The US withdrew its Ambassador
8. Bainimarama and Speight finally agreed
terms for the release of the hostages and signed the Muanikau
Accord in Suva on 9 July. The deal provided for the release of
the remaining 27 hostages on 13 July; the surrender of all arms
and ordnance stolen by the rebels; the appointment of an interim
President and Vice-President, to be nominated by the Great Council
of Chiefs; the establishment of a new interim civilian administration
(to replace the one appointed on 3 July); the creation of a Constitutional
Review Commission; repeal of all military zone and exclusion orders;
immunity for Speight and his supporters; and the return of all
rebel service personnel to army duty, reinstated at their former
ranks. Speight indicated that he expected to have a considerable
hand in the formation of the new administration.
9. Nine further hostages were released on
12 July. The remaining 18 were released on 13 July and Iloilo
was appointed Interim President by the Fijian Tribal Council with
the task of forming a new government. The new administration announced
by Iloilo on 18 July included four Cabinet ministers and three
junior ministers who could clearly be identified as Speight sympathisers.
These included the Minister of Agriculture, Apisai Tora, who was
a prominent member of the Taukei movement (which campaigns for
the rights of indigenous Fijians) and had been seen manning a
road-block put up by Speight supporters; the Minister for Lands
and Mineral Resources, Mitieli Bulanauca, who was previously sworn
in as a member of the government Speight himself appointed at
an earlier stage in the crisis; and the new Minister for Health,
Ratu Timoci Silatolu, who visited Speight and his supporters in
the Parliament complex a number of times while the hostages were
10. The new administration also included
Qarase, the previous interim Prime Minister and 13 other members
of the previous interim administration. These were mainly capable
technocrats. The new Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Fijian
Affairs, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, was former President Mara's son
in law. In addition, the new administration included one ethnic
Indian, George Shiu Raj, as Minister for Regional Development
and Multi-ethnic affairs.
THE UK RESPONSE
11. On 13 July, Mr Battle issued a statement
welcoming the release of all the hostages held captive since 19
May but expressing dismay that Speight and his supporters had
been allowed to overthrow Fiji's democratically elected government
at the point of a gun. He also expressed dismay that the hostage-takers
appeared to have been given an amnesty and a role in forming the
new administration, when they should be brought to justice for
their criminal actions. Mr Battle stressed that the British Government
had consistently called for the restoration of democratic and
constitutional government, which respected the rights of all Fijians
and would continue to do so.
12. On 13 July Mr Battle also spoke to the
Commonwealth Secretary-General and discussed the scope for further
13. On 18 July, the Government announced
the withdrawal of the British High Commissioner for consultations.
Australia and New Zealand announced that they too were withdrawing
their High Commissioners. Mr Battle also told the Fijian High
Commissioner in London of our disappointment that the new government
included individuals associated with Speight, that the 1997 Constitution
had been abrogated, and that the hostage takers had not been brought
14. Later on 18 July, Mr Battle telephoned
the Australian and New Zealand Foreign Ministers to discuss developments
in Fiji and the scope for a co-ordinated international response.
Mr Downer and Mr Goff explained the measures which Australia and
New Zealand had taken in response to events in Fiji and urged
the UK to take similar measures. Mr Downer called on the UK to
press the UK organisers of the Rugby League World Cup (to be held
in the UK in October) to find a replacement for Fiji.
15. The following are the key measures announced
by other governments:
Australia: suspension of government-to-government
co-operation under the Australia-Fiji Trade and Economic Relations
Agreement; termination of new scholarships and training; termination
of a number of aid projects, representing a 30 per cent cut in
Australia's bilateral aid programme; suspension of all defence
co-operation; work to encourage the transfer of regional meetings
to other venues; ban on Fiji national sporting teams playing in
Australia (except for the Olympics); cancellation of Speight's
visa; any application for entry by other individuals involved
in the hostage taking to be considered in light of those actions.
New Zealand: list of prohibited migrants
expanded to 300 names; ban on government scholarships for the
families of prohibited migrants; suspension of bilateral defence
co-operation, including sending home Fijian military personnel
currently training in New Zealand; halving of aid (except for
ICRC or Human Rights Commission-related projects); and extension
of ban on sporting contacts with Fiji until 31 December.
United States: suspension of security
assistance and defence co-operation; and examination of legislation
which provides that no funds may "finance directly any assistance
to any country whose duly elected Head of Government is deposed
by military coup or decree."
16. As set out in my reply to a parliamentary
question on 28 July, we have announced a number of targeted measures
In the absence of any immediate improvement
in the situation on the ground, the Government is urging EU partners
to open consultations under Article 366a of the Lomé Convention
to establish a timetable for return to democracy. All new EC aid
to Fiji is currently on hold pending detailed discussion within
The Government is pressing our EU
partners to impose restrictions on travel by George Speight and
All Foreign Office-funded assistance
to Fiji's government is being cancelled.
Naval visits and joint military exercises
have been cancelled. All UK defence co-operation with Fiji will
remain under review.
The Government will not issue licences
for any arms or security equipment for export to Fiji where there
is a clear risk that it will be used for internal repression.
All applications for strategic export licences for Fiji are examined
against our national and EU criteria on arms exports.
17. Ministers looked carefully at the Australian
request to urge the UK organisers to exclude Fiji from the Rugby
League World Cup but took the view that the decision was one for
the International Rugby League Federation, on which the national
bodies of all the main rugby league nations were represented.
The Fijian National Rugby League wrote to the Prime Minister declaring
its commitment to multi-racial rugby at all levels of the game.
18. On 22 July, the British High Commission
took part in an EU demarche by the French Presidency and Commission
representative to the Permanent Secretary of the Fijian Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. The French Ambassador expressed the EU's concerns
about developments in Fiji, and warned that if democracy were
not restored the EU would reconsider its development assistance
to Fiji, and would also invoke the consultations procedure set
out in article 366a of the Lomé Convention.
19. Following the appointment of the new
interim government (which has still not been sworn in) Speight
set up camp with several hundred of his supporters and tried to
put pressure on President Iloilo to include some of his supporters
in the government. However, on 26 July Speight and three of his
supporters were stopped and detained at a military checkpoint.
According to the military, they will be charged with several offences
including carrying weapons in violation of the terms of the amnesty;
threatening the life of the President and being in breach of the
curfew. The amnesty previously given to him and his supporters
has been cancelled and he is, therefore, liable to charges dating
back to 19 May and other outstanding civil cases against him.
After Speight's detention there were reports that his camp had
been cleared of rebels by the military and a large number taken
into custody. Two New Zealanders (civil pilots) are reported to
have been seized by rebels on Vanua Levu.
20. In the meantime, former Prime Minister
Chaudhry and members of his deposed cabinet are discussing the
possibility of forming a government in exile. They have called
to the international community to support their restoration to
office as Fiji's legitimate government.
21. We agreed with our Commonwealth partners
at the CMAG meeting held on 6 June, and subsequently confirmed
to the Fijian authorities through the CMAG Ministerial mission
that visited Suva on 15-16 June, that we would assess Fiji's progress
in drawing up a roadmap to democracy at the next CMAG meeting
in September. Since we do not yet have a confirmed government,
and the situation is still in flux, we see no reason for the Commonwealth
to take precipitate action before then. It is too soon to say
what position we will take at the CMAG meeting in September.
22. However, one of the key reasons for
excluding Fiji from the Commonwealth between 1987 and 1997 was
the terms of its 1990 Constitution, which discriminated against
Indo-Fijians. Since the 1997 Constitution has been abrogated,
Fiji currently has no constitution. The Constitutional Review
Commission has been asked to draw up a new one. In doing so it
will need to ensure that it is compatible with Commonwealth principles.
These principles are set out in the Declaration of Commonwealth
Principles of 1971, which established fundamental principles of
human rights for Commonwealth members, including specific references
to racial prejudice, intolerance and oppression. In addition,
the Harare Commonwealth Declaration of 1991 actively promoted
democracy, good governance and respect for human rights and the
rule of law; while the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme
of 1995 was adopted to "fulfil more effectively (Commonwealth
members') commitment to the Harare principles." Any attempt
to reintroduce the discriminatory provisions of the 1990 Constitution
is likely to be met with a firm response from the Commonwealth.
23. We will be pressing Fiji both bilaterally
and multilaterally, including through the European Union and the
Commonwealth, to draw up a roadmap to restore democratic and constitutional
government. Our aim is to ensure that Fiji can once again take
its place as a valued member of the international community.