FIJI'S DEPOSED PM CRITICIZES SOUTH PACIFIC ISLAND NATIONS

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (August 8, 2000 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's deposed prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, has criticized South Pacific island nations for their lack of action over the nationalist coup that removed him from power.

And he said he would be sending his former foreign minister to talk with neighboring island countries about the issue.

Mr. Chaudhry was speaking after talks in Wellington with New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

He said he was happy with New Zealand's response to the coup, and was hopeful the South Pacific Forum in Kiribati in October would produce a statement supporting democracy in Fiji.

Meantime, it has been announced in New Delhi that Mr. Chaudhry will visit India before the end of the month.

Speaking in New Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said Mr. Chaudhry would be given a hearty welcome.

Relatives of the deposed Fijian leader live in the Indian cities of Rohtak and Chandigarh.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

 

FIJI REFUGEES' PLIGHT MOVES NEW ZEALAND PM HELEN CLARK

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (August 8, 2000 – New Zealand Herald)---Ousted Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry yesterday called on New Zealand to help 50 families stuck in a refugee camp in the troubled Pacific republic.

Prime Minister Helen Clark responded that the refugees were a "prime concern" to New Zealand.

"He is concerned about their physical condition within the refugee camp, and we can now give consideration to what relief New Zealand might provide," she said shortly after meeting Mr. Chaudhry.

Helen Clark said Foreign Minister Phil Goff and officials would consider the problem in the following 24 hours.

Mr. Chaudhry said Fiji authorities had failed to provide any money for food and other items that the refugees needed.

"They are being funded solely by NGOs [non-government organizations] and through aid provided by other sources, so we've asked [that] their plight be considered. The Prime Minister said they would look at it compassionately and sympathetically."

The refugees, who are in a camp in the west of the country, fled violence in rural areas after the May 19 coup, led by George Speight, which saw Mr. Chaudhry and other parliamentarians held hostage for 56 days. The hostages were released in mid-July and an interim Government made up almost entirely of indigenous Fijians was appointed for up to three years.

Mr. Chaudhry said he was "not a vindictive person," but he reiterated his desire to see Speight charged with treason -- an offence that carries a maximum penalty of death, although no one has been hanged in Fiji since 1970.

"I think he should answer to the nation rather than to me. I certainly cannot reconcile his actions when I look at the pain and suffering he has caused the nation and the poor innocent people who had nothing to do with it."

Mr. Chaudhry said he was happy with New Zealand's response to the coup, but criticized the lack of action from other South Pacific nations. "What is a concern to me generally is the security situation in our region, because we had this [upheaval] in 1987 in Fiji . . . and then it spread to Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and back to Fiji.

"So whether we're really secure, whether the democracies are really secure in these island states, should be a matter of concern to all governments in the region.

"So from that standpoint, I would say that I would like to see the island countries being a little more vocal."

Mr. Chaudhry said his former foreign minister was soon to go on a mission to talk with leaders in neighboring countries about the issue.

He was also hopeful that the South Pacific Forum summit in Kiribati in October would produce a statement supporting democracy, human rights, stability and good government.

Helen Clark has not yet decided whether she will attend the forum.

She said she would go if she had something worthwhile to say, and provided she did not have to sit alongside Speight.

The Prime Minister said Mr. Goff would urge a South Pacific Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Samoa this weekend that international pressure on Fiji should continue until democracy was restored.

For additional reports from The New Zealand Herald, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/ New Zealand Herald.

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