FIJI COUP LEADER SPEIGHT PRAISES DEPOSED PM CHAUDHRY

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 12, 2001 – Fiji Times)---Mahendra Chaudhry has received some support from an unlikely source -- coup leader George Speight.

''He's wily, he's smart, he's good,'' Speight said when told of Mr. Chaudhry's acceptance of an offer to join the Laisenia Qarase government.

Speight was allowed about a minute to answer questions from the international and local media in court yesterday before being ushered away by prison wardens.

Speight said he was awaiting confirmation from his Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party on whether it would join the government.

On his victory in the General Elections, Speight was a bit guarded in his response.

"I feel good,'' he said, as he pointed upwards in seeming acknowledgement of divine intervention.

Security was tightened around the Government Buildings yesterday during Speight's appearance with 12 others facing treason charges.

In court yesterday, Justice Surman refused to disqualify himself from hearing the treason case after the prosecution had submitted that at 65 years of age, he no longer had any jurisdiction to hear the case because he had reached the retirement age for judges of the High Court.

For additional reports from the Fiji Times, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Fiji Times.

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