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June 3, 2000
Indians being terrorised in Fiji: Reuters
Ethnic Indian families in a remote province of Fiji are being terrorised by indigenous Fijian neighbours, the Labour Party said in Suva on Saturday.
The party, led by the country's first ethnic Indian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry, claims the young men perpetrating violence in the province of Naitasiri have links with businessman George Speight, who is holding Chaudhry and 30 hostage in parliament.
There was a stalemate of talks between Speight and the military on Saturday, dashing hopes for the release of hostages in the 16-day-old crisis.
The Labour Party said the leaders in the terror campaign "are young men from villages with close kinship ties with Speight".
"These acts follow a distinct pattern. They involve groups of eight to 10 masked men armed with iron bars, semi-automatic rifles, knives and rocks," the party said.
"Some remain on guard outside while the others smash their way into a house, loot, destroy and physically assault terrified family members."
Naitasiri province is about three hours by road from Suva, in the interior of the island of Viti Levu.
Chaudhry's multi-racial party government included members of the ethnic Indian community who make up 44 per cent of Fiji's 800,000 population and dominate the sugar and tourism-driven economy.
The party said young Indian women were threatened with rape if the looters did not get what they want. "Temples and holy shrines have also been deliberately targeted."
The party said terrorised families were seeking refuge and protection from neighbours "including sympathetic and generous-hearted Fijian villagers".
The party claimed the military had not taken any action to protect affected families.
Speight, who said earlier the captives would be released this weekend, said on Saturday that the military now running the country had "changed its stance" and was insisting on staying in power for three months, instead of allowing tribal elders to decide the country's fate.
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