SECURITY FEARS OVER RETURN OF FIJI’S CHAUDHRY

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (October 17, 2000 – Fiji Sun/Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius)---Fiji's deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry is due back in his homeland today amid fears about his security in the wake of threats, according to local media reports.

The Fiji Sun reported that security would be tightened in the Nadi international airport area for his arrival this evening following threats on the life of the democratically elected Chaudhry, who was held hostage for 56 days by rebels earlier this year.

But the Fiji Times said mystery surrounded the date of the former prime minister's arrival, saying that while a military source indicated that Chaudhry was expected in Fiji tonight, a police special branch source said he would return on Friday.

The Fiji Times also quoted Assistant Police Commissioner Jahir Khan as saying no request had been made so far by the military installed interim administration on the provision of security for Chaudhry.

A special branch source told the paper: "He is no longer a minister and why should the government provide security for him?"

The Fiji Sun highlighted Chaudhry's campaign abroad in the past few months in support of Fiji's quick return to the 1997 constitutional rule and a return of his elected government.

His globetrotting tour took him to Australia, Canada, Europe, India, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, where he condemned actions of the unelected interim administration and the colonial installed Great Council of Chiefs.

"Authorities were tightlipped about Mr Chaudhry's arrival schedule yesterday for security reasons," the paper said.

A cartoon featured in the Fiji Sun suggested that fugitive gunman Alifereti Nimacere could be waiting for the opportunity to give Chaudhry a "greeting in nice way."

Nimacere, who has been on the run for three months since escaping from prison, is believed to have been among the rebels who ambushed a military patrol and shot dead a policeman and soldier on August 7.

The Fiji Sun called in an editorial for the authorities to step up efforts to recapture him, especially as he had been sighted in the capital of Suva.

"A lot of people associate the 'ghost who walks' with the Phantom comic series. It seems we do have a 'ghost who walks' in our midst," the paper said.

"What happened to the dragnet that was supposed to flush out such elements [Nimacere and other rebels]? What happened to the massive search operation that was put out for him up in the highlands of Monasavu?

"No one can now take away the fact that there are people harboring Nimacere. For what reason, it is still unclear.

"It has cost the taxpayer millions of dollars trying to recapture him. The bottom line is that this country is firmly headed down the path of economic and political ruin.

"It can do without the uncertainty surrounding the fact that there is a heavily armed hardened criminal on the run."

Title -- 3046 FIJI: Security fears over Chaudhry Date -- 17 October 2000 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- PN/Fiji Sun/Fiji Times, 17/10/00 Copyright -- PN/FS/FT Status -- Unabridged

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