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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 19, 1999 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's newly sworn-in ethnic Indian Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, has weathered his first crisis with the help of Fiji's President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that Mr. Chaudhry's two coalition partners, both indigenous Fijian political parties, have put aside their objections to Mr. Chaudhry's swearing-in this morning.

"At a caucus meeting this morning the larger of the two parties - The Fijian Association - resolved to break up the coalition in protest at the way the Indian dominated Fiji Labour Party, which has more than half the members in the new Parliament had decided unilaterally that Mahendra Chaudhry would be the Prime Minister.

"The members wanted their leader, Adi Kuini Speed, a woman of high Fijian rank, appointed instead.

"However when a delegation went to inform the President, Ratu Mara, he persuaded them that it would be in Fiji's best interest for them to stay with the new governing coalition.

"Sean Dorney, Suva."

FIJI'S PRESIDENT APPEALS TO COALITION TO STAY TOGETHER SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 19, 1999 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, has appealed to the Fijian Association Party not to pull out of its coalition with the Fiji Labour Party, led by Fiji's first ethnic Indian Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney reports that Ratu Mara's intervention has caused the Fiji Association Party to reconsider its decision earlier today to quit the new government.

"In a move that could bring Prime Minister Chaudhry's first major challenge to an early and satisfying end, Ratu Mara has given Mr. Chaudhry vital support.

"I understand that the result could bring another indigenous party into the Chaudhry government. It's the V-L-V - The Christian Democrats.

"Ratu Mara's daughter, Adi Koila won a seat for the V-L-V.

"Her presence in the Chaudhry government would be a major bonus for the new Prime Minister in the eyes of many Fijians.

"The Fijian Association Party leader, Adi Kuini Speed, and her party colleagues are now discussing whether to reverse their mid-morning decision to quit the governing coalition.

"Sean Dorney, Suva."


SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 19, 1999 – Radio Australia)---The leader of Fiji's Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry, has been sworn in as the country's new Prime Minister by President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara. The move, which gives Fiji its first ethnic Indian prime minister, ends speculation that the President might have hesitated at appointing an Indian as the leader of the government.

More from Radio Australia correspondent Sean Dorney in Suva:

"The size of Mr. Chaudhry's win was probably the determining factor. His Labour Party has won more than half the seats, 37 of 71. Five of those 37 members are ethnic Fijians.

"The Labour Party caucus has decided that one of them, Tupeni Baba, should be one of the two Deputy Prime Ministers.

"The leader of the Fiji Association Party, Adi Kuini Speed, widow of the late Doctor Timoci Bavadra, is being offered the other deputy prime ministership.

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