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SUVA, Fiji (February 23, 2002 – Daily Post/Fiji Sun/Fiji Times/Pasifik Nius)---Fiji's Daily Post newspaper Saturday accused the Qarase government of "over-reaction" to a "two-bit player's cheap allegation" in Friday’s dramatic walkout from Parliament.

Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, Information Minister in the former Labour-led coalition government deposed by the George Speight putsch in May 2000, had alleged in Parliament that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase had prior knowledge of the attempted coup.

In an editorial headlined "Give peace a chance," the Daily Post said that by leading the government side out of the House of Representatives in protest against Vayeshnoi, who withdrew his remark, the prime minister gave the allegation dignity it did not deserve.

"It clearly was a wild, unproven allegation, the kind of mindless put-downs that belong more to gutter speculation of yaqona-swipers than serious debates in Parliament," the paper said.

"Mr. Vayeshnoi knew it or he wouldn't have withdrawn the remark when challenged to."

However, other commentators have in recent months publicly questioned Qarase's role over the coup.

The Fiji Sun called for a halt to the "nonsense" in Parliament.

"To turn their backs on the Speaker while he was talking was totally un-Fijian and very unchiefly," the paper said.

"It is certainly not the way to settle differences or disputes.

"As adults given the responsibility of running government, one would have expected them to meet the problem head on, not to walk away.

"If they were dissatisfied with the ruling of the Speaker, then they know what they should have done: make it known to the chair."

The Sun said the Speaker, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, had been doing a "splendid job."

The Fiji Times described the furor over the "unsubstantiated allegation" as "an unfortunate scene" and referred to the tension leading to armed police being stationed around Parliament.

But the newspaper questioned the integrity of the members of Parliament over a recent series of events in the House, saying they had no respect for their office or the people whom they represented.

"Abuse of parliamentary privilege continues," the paper said.

"Labour members have been guilty of this infraction time and again since 1992.

"Now the government backbenchers are equally guilty.

"There is no evidence that members who abuse parliamentary privilege have been castigated."

Title -- 3540 POLITICS: Daily Post accuses Qarase of 'over-reaction' Date -- 23 February 2002 Byline -- None Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Daily Post/Fiji Sun/Fiji Times, 23/2/2 Copyright -- PN/DP/FS/FT Status -- Unabridged

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