CHAUDHRY UNDER FIRE IN FIJI

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 15, 2001 -- Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---Mahendra Chaudhry, defeated in a bid to regain a role in Fiji's government, has been called power hungry and arrogant by the Information Minister of the new elected government.

The criticism came from Information Minister Josefa Vosanibola as former Prime Minister Chaudhry fought exclusion of his mainly ethnic Indian Labour Party from the multi-party Cabinet.

Mr. Vosanibola, from the mainly indigenous Fijian Soqosoqo ni Duavata Lewenivanua, was quoted in The Fiji Times as saying of Mr Chaudhry, who was deposed in last year's coup crisis: "He has no respect for the judiciary and pleads adherence to the rule of law only as a convenient cover to use the courts to pursue his personal, political and egotistical agenda.

"He has no respect for the President. Only Mr. Chaudhry is right and anything other than what he recommends or says is wrong."

The Soqosoqo ni Duavata Lewenivanua, led by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, won most seats in the election returning Fiji to democratic government.

Mr. Vosanibola said Mr. Qarase told Mr. Chaudhry that if we wanted to join the Cabinet -- which the constitution says Labour won enough seats to do -- he had to abide by Soqosoqo ni Duavata Lewenivanua's manifesto.

The Fiji Times reported Mr. Vosanibola said Mr. Chaudhry's silence on this condition was considered a serious omission.

Mr. Vosanibola told The Fiji Times: "Mr. Chaudhry and his party now have a golden opportunity to serve the people of Fiji as the Opposition in Parliament."

The Fiji Times said Mr. Vosanibola was reacting to statements by Mr. Chaudhry that:

Mr. Qarase's Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua won 31 seats in the 71-seat House of Representatives. Labour won 27, with the Conservative Alliance/Matanitu Vanua Party next with six.

Mr. Qarase's Cabinet has no Indians. But Mr Qarase indicated an Indian Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua supporter expected to win the one seat to still be decided will be included in the government.

The elections returned Fiji to democratic government after the coup last year in which indigenous Fijian rebel gunmen took hostage the government led by Mr. Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister. The coup sparked violence, which led to intervention by the Fiji Military Forces and forced the Chaudhry government's removal.

In other developments in the continuing controversy over the Cabinet:

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

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

 

FIX PROBLEMS WITHOUT GOING TO COURT, FIJI'S CHIEF JUSTICE URGES

SUVA, Fiji Islands (September 14, 2001 - PINA Nius Online)---Chief Justice Sir Timoci Tuivaga today urged Fiji's political leaders to sort out their differences without resorting to court action.

And he said it would appear that the letter and spirit of the Constitution over the formation of a Cabinet based on a multi-party government may have been overlooked.

Sir Timoci made the comment today in his address to 16 new lawyers at their admission ceremony to the Bar, according to a Ministry of Information news release.

"The courts are overburdened without the added work that may arise over arguments on the application of the Constitution on a problem that is basically and essentially political in nature," said Sir Timoci.

Sir Timoci's comments came as the leader of the mainly ethnic Indian Fiji Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry, threatened court and other action over his party being left out of the new government.

Sir Timoci said he hopes that political leaders will be able to sort out matters of great public importance with goodwill and understanding without resorting to the court system, which could be messy and prolonged.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase left Mr. Chaudhry and Labour out of the Cabinet after his mainly indigenous Fijian Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua won the most seats, 31, in elections for the 71-seat House of Representatives.

Mr. Qarase formed his government with support from the indigenous Fijian Conservative Alliance/Matanitu Vanua Party, which won six seats, two independents and one member from a multiracial "Moderates" group.

Labour won 27 seats.

The elections followed the coup last year in which indigenous Fijian rebel gunmen took hostage the government led by Mr. Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister. It sparked violence, which led to Fiji Military Forces intervention and forced the Chaudhry government's removal.

Mr. Qarase has said that including Mr. Chaudhry and his Labour members in the Cabinet would be unworkable as their policies are so different and Mr. Chaudhry had not agreed to Cabinet principles Mr. Qarase outlined. Mr. Chaudhry has said he made no conditions for Labour joining the Cabinet.

Mr. Chaudhry has insisted that under the Constitution Labour must have places in the Cabinet. The matter should go straight to the Court of Appeal rather than the High Court, as it is a matter of dealing with a huge constitutional crisis, he was quoted as saying by the news website FijiLive.

Sir Timoci, speaking at the swearing in of the new lawyers, said: "I accept that it is most unusual for a judge to point out matters of public significance in current affairs by way of an extra-judicial statement. I have chosen to do so, however, out of the exigencies of the political and constitutional situation facing the country at the present time.

"It is beyond question that matters concerning the public interest and good governance of the country are best dealt with in the political arena rather than resort to the courts which by their nature are not equipped or properly qualified to resolve the political problems of the nation.

"In the present matter there is no doubt that the best solution is the political one for the national leaders concerned."

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

 

NEW ZEALAND SAYS NO NORMAL TIES WITH FIJI UNTIL LEGALITY OF GOVERNMENT IS SETTLED

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (September 17, 2001 – Radio Australia)---New Zealand says it will not normalize relations with Fiji until questions over the constitutional legality of its new government are settled.

And Foreign Minister Phil Goff indicated that the Commonwealth would not be re-admitting Fiji until matters regarding the legality of the government are sorted out.

On Wednesday, newly elected Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was sworn in along with an all-indigenous Fijian Cabinet.

Although he complied with a constitutional requirement to invite parties with more than 10 percent of the vote into the Cabinet, he did not extend this to the largely ethnic Indian Fiji Labour Party, which said it was entitled to nearly half the places.

Mr. Goff said New Zealand, Australia and the Commonwealth are all keen to normalize relations, ruptured during last year's coup, but will wait until the constitutional issue is resolved.

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

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