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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 6, 2001 – Fiji Sun/Pasifik Nius)---Fiji's Deposed Women and Culture Minister Lavenia Padarath yesterday brushed aside reports that she would be "front runner" for the prime minister's position in a government of national unity (GNU) if the Court of Appeal upholds Justice Gates' ruling on February 19, the Fiji Sun reports.

This would mean President Ratu Josefa Iloilo convening the elected – and deposed - Parliament under the 1997 constitution.

Padarath, of the Fiji Labour Party, said that "it was all speculation and it was the first time for her to hear it and I was surprised to read it in the papers."

She would not comment any further.

Meanwhile, a Fiji Labour Party statement yesterday gave its commitment to the GNU under the 1997 constitution.

According to FLP spokesperson Krishna Dutt, the management board had earlier appointed a seven-person committee to engage with heads of other political parties represented in Parliament to further the idea.

The committee is comprised of: Mahendra Chaudhry, Jokapeci Koroi, Dr. Atu Emberson-Bain, Krishna Datt, Pratap Chand, Anand Singh and Dr. Tupeni Baba.

Datt said they had debated the issue of leadership with Chaudhry being reconfirmed.

It was also resolved that in the event of a NGU being formed by the President, the Labour leader would call an emergency meeting of the FLP caucus which would nominate a candidate for prime minister.

The Fiji Sun also reported today that military and police officials in the western division of the main island of Viti Levu were working together to beef up security over the appeal court hearing.

Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Manulevu said "the military is on alert and is tightening security."

* See PN item 3189

Title -- 3192 FIJI: Padarath brushes aside PM 'front runner' claim Date -- 6 February 2001 Byline – None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- PN/Fiji Sun, 6/2/1 Copyright -- PN/FS Status – Unabridged

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