SUVA, FIJI, SEPT. 26 -- Coup leader Col. Sitiveni Rabuka today predicted Fiji would become a republic Oct. 10 and called for a constitution under which ethnic Fijians would dominate parliament.
"There is no other way now," Rabuka told the Australian newspaper Times on Sunday. It was his first interview since his coup yesterday, when he seized executive powers from Governor General Sir Penaia Ganilau, who represents Queen Elizabeth II as Fiji's head of state. No injuries were reported.
Rabuka, a 39-year-old ethnic Fijian, said he had not decided whether an interim military government would be set up to run the country until new elections could be held or whether an administration would be formed from members of the Great Council of Chiefs, the newspaper reported.
The council represents the traditional authority among Melanesian Fijians who make up 47 percent of the Pacific island nation's 715,000 people. Indians, descendants of sugar plantation workers imported by the British, make up 49 percent.
Rabuka said he wanted Ganilau to become the first president of a Fijian republic and wanted fresh elections under a constitution which guaranteed that ethnic Fijians would dominate parliament, the newspaper reported.
Indian-owned shops were shuttered today, and troops patrolled the streets, after Rabuka's second coup in five months, news reports said. But native Fijians celebrated the coup.
In London, British Foreign Secretary Geoffrey Howe called the latest takeover by Rabuka "deplorable" and expressed hope for a return to democracy there.
Fiji, a member of the Commonwealth, lies 2,000 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia. It gained independence from Britain on Oct. 10, 1970.
Rabuka, announced on national radio yesterday that he had ousted Ganilau, who led the interim government since Rabuka overthrew prime minister Timoci Bavadra on May 14.