June 23, 2000
WELLINGTON, JUNE 22: The Prime Minister of Fiji and 30 members of his government who are being held hostage by armed rebels seemed set to spend another night in captivity after negotiations on their release broke down on Thursday afternoon, a news report said.
Held captive in Parliament in the capital Suva since May 19, they may not be released for at least another 24 hours, radio New Zealand reported. It quoted the rebels as saying the country’s military rulers, who have governed under martial law since May 29, had rewritten some provisions of a draft accord that both sides were due to sign on Thursday.
Speight apparently insisted at the last minute demands that nearly 40 renegade soldiers who had joined him in his coup be paid for the five weeks they have been away from their barracks, Television New Zealand reported.
It said the military had already agreed to take the rebels back into the regular armed forces but baulked at paying them for the period of their disloyalty.
Speight put the demand to Fiji’s interim military government while they were on the verge of signing a peace accord with his rebels.
Earlier, radio New Zealand reported that families of the hostages had been told they would be released at 1330 local time (0700 GMT).
Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and 30 members of his government would be taken to Red Cross headquarters in Suva for medical checks, the report said.
A trauma counselling team was reported to be on standby to counsel Chaudhry and his fellow legislators when they were freed.