Pubdate: Sun, 19 Aug 2001
Source: CNN (US Web)
Copyright: 2001 Cable News Network, Inc.
Author: Connie Chew
Bookmark: (Cannabis)
Note: Not a Transcript


SUVA, Fiji -- A Fijian high chief has said his people should be shot 
dead if found planting marijuana, sparking controversy a week ahead 
of fresh elections.

The elections are the first since a coup attempt last year.

Fiji voters go to the polls on August 25 in a week-long election that 
will see candidates from some 18 political parties vying to form the 
next new government.

A former member of parliament in the Rabuka regime, Ratu Sakuisa 
Matuku, who is paramount chief of the Nadroga province on Fiji's main 
island of Viti Levu, offered shooting as a solution to the growing 
problem of marijuana cultivation, a local newspaper reported.

Matuku made the call when opening a new magistrates court in the town 
of Sigatoka, located in his province.

Just two days earlier, a Fijian soldier shot dead a villager in the 
neighboring province of Navosa in a drug raid that netted the tiny 
Pacific island nation's largest marijuana haul, worth $1.7 million 

"While I'm, sorry for the shooting incident, at the same time I think 
people who are growing the illegal plants need to be shot," said 
Matuku, who earlier this year dropped out as an election candidate on 
a Fijian ticket in the Indian political party, the National 
Federation Party.

Navosa's paramount chief, Adi Kuini Speed, who is leader of the 
Fijian Association Party and a deputy prime minister in the toppled 
democratically-elected Chauhdry government, has called for a national 
strategy to combat the growing use of marijuana.

Poverty cycle Adi Kuini, a strong candidate in the general election, 
said it was tragic that indigenous Fijians were resorting to the 
marijuana trade as they sought ways to break away from the poverty 
cycle caused by years of government mismanagement and a lack of 
alternative sources of income.

Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, whose government 
was toppled in May 2000 after failed businessman George Speight and 
armed gunmen stormed parliament in the name of indigenous rights, 
said Fiji must break away from its gun culture if it is to reclaim 
some of the credibility in the international arena.

Indo-Fijians, who make up 44 percent of Fiji's population of 830,000, 
controlled much of the economy before the coup attempt, although they 
own little of the land and are mainly tenant farmers.

Chaudhry and many of his cabinet ministers were taken hostage for 56 
days by Speight, who is awaiting trail on treason charges on an 
island jail.

A confident Chaudhry campaigning as leader of the Fiji Labor Party in 
a town just outside the capital Suva told a rally of indigenous 
Fijians and Indo-Fijians that Fiji had earned a reputation as a 
"country of coups" and in order to move forward, the country needed 
to get away from being "run from the barrel of a gun."
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