CHAUDHRY: ‘IRON MAN OF FIJI’

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CHAUDHRY: ‘IRON MAN OF FIJI’

Interview by Rohit Kumar ‘Happy’ Editor, Bharat-Darshan, New Zealand

Ba, Fiji Islands

I never bow before injustice and I will not. -- Chaudhry

Mahendra Chaudhry, Fiji’s deposed prime minister seems weaker physically but not scared. He is a free man today but his life still remains under threat.

After chasing him for a couple of days I finally got hold of Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry and he told me where and when to meet. I phoned him from Lautoka and I was told to meet him the next morning in Ba.

I was there on time and was waiting for Mr. Chaudhry. Soon he entered and I introduced myself to him. He smiled but I could feel he was in pain by his looks. His face was pale.

I was told that Mr. Chaudhry was not feeling well and the doctor was on his way and he would see him as soon as possible. Then his doctor came and diagnosed him. Soon the doctor left and I was called into the room where Mr. Chaudhry was sitting on a chair and he offered me a seat.

How do you feel after release?

Weak, I feel weak. I didn’t eat for seven weeks. I was on one meal a day.

Why were you having only one meal a day?

It was a form of protest and silence protest. I just had very little to eat just to survive.

How did they behave with you during your captivity?

They (rebels) assaulted me physically, emotionally and verbally. They beat me up.

The rebels fractured Chaudhry’s ribs during physical assaults.

56 days in captivity! Are you scared?

He slightly shakes his head and strongly replies, I am not scared but, yes, my life is under threat. His voice doesn’t sound like a weak man’s voice.

We had multi racial government. Out of 18 Cabinet Ministers, 12 were of Fijian origin. We were doing very well."

What caused the coup? Was it protest against Chaudhry or Indians?

No, it’s not protest against Chaudhry. We have the public behind us. People do trust in my leadership. And as I mentioned to you our government was multi racial."

You have neither the Army behind you nor do you have any strong community backup. Then why do you think you should be PM?

That’s right . . . but when we formed the government we assumed that the armed forces would be loyal. There were some elements in the Army, those who weren’t loyal and they participated in the coup."

If Indians weren’t involved in the politics, would there have still been a problem?

The problem will be as it is now. As you know there are internal divisions among the Fijian peoples themselves. There are 14 provinces; there are internal divisions. That is why they are unable to form the proper government. Indians were used all this time as the common enemy but once they (Fijians) are removed from political powers and rights Indians will be always finger pointed."

Why are Indians always the target in Fiji? How come they seem to be a weak community compared to Indians living in India?

"Yes, we don’t have a martial tradition among Indo Fijians. We don’t have a history of martial tradition."

How come most of the Indians say they don’t want to fight and they would rather leave the country? How come you are different?

"We have a very weak Indian community. You will know if you trace their background. They are not the people who want to fight. They were here to work. As you know in some parts of India people can’t fight -- places such as Bihar -- and you must be aware that most of the Indians in Fiji are from that sort of place."

Do you recall when the moment death was very close?

There was a time they thought that the army was attacking. It was clear to me that if they were attacked, they would use us as human shields, especially me. Once they dragged me and pointed the gun at my head. I was still calm, but the man who was holding the gun was shaking badly."

How about Chaudhry? Where do Chaudhry’s roots come from and what makes him Iron Man?

(He laughs.) Chaudhry has his roots from Haryana State, which is known for their brave people. While Chaudhry was held by rebels there were hundreds of young men in Haryana ready to die for Chaudhry. Do they know Chaudhry? No, they don’t, but they were proud of Chaudhry and they know Chaudhry is from the same community. A Jat (a caste of Indian people known for how well they can fight) of Haryana. Jat of Haryana who doesn’t know how to step back. They never step back or down. This is their history.

Will there be a day when the world will hear that Chaudhry has packed up and gone?

No, I don’t think so, but by and large I think Indians are losing their confidence in this country now because it (coup) happened a second time."

Generally, Indians complain that they don’t have guns. They say, ‘Give us guns and we’ll fight.’ What you say?

It was thought that the best way to do this is by non-violence. Violence does breed violence. There are two ways to fight the battle. You know in India, Gandhi ji chose the non- violent way.

Does the world understand Gandhi’s language today?

Well, we can look at this but look at many other countries trying to fight the battle by violence. It’s all over. So, there are ways of dealing with the situation. We have choices, what the leaders decide and what is available to them. What options are best? We are an island country and things are different for us.

What are your future plans?

First I have to take care of my health. Later, I will be visiting some countries to talk to their leaders.

How do you feel about the international community?

"I am not critical of any country. They all are following international patterns of international sanctions."

What will Chaudhry say to those people who trust in his leadership?

"I never bow before injustice and I will not."

Now one won’t be wrong if Chaudhry is described as "Iron Man of Fiji."

For additional information: Rohit Kumar 'Happy' Editor, Bharat-Darshan, New Zealand P.O.Box-16121, Sandringham Auckland-3 (New Zealand) Mobile: 025 299 7400 E-mail: editor@bharatdarshan.co.nz  Internet: http://www.bharatdarshan.co.nz and http://www.bharatdarshan.co.nz 

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