FIJI COUP FRONT MAN SPEIGHT WAS SCAPEGOAT: CHAUDHRY

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (February 26, 2002 - Sun)---Deposed Prime Minister and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry believes the man who overthrew his democratically elected government, George Speight, was a scapegoat.

And the man who lost the most in the coup says indigenous rights had nothing to do with the May 19 coup, so someone must answer to the charges.

Mr. Chaudhry made the comments in Parliament yesterday during the debate on the abolition of the death penalty.

"Indigenous rights had nothing to do with it. It is a pity that our ordinary Fijian folk are being used by the power play of certain individuals," Mr. Chaudhry said.

He first said he agreed that the death penalty should be abolished, but that fears and concerns have also been raised.

Mr. Chaudhry also remarked on the timing of the amendment to the bill, saying it was unfortunate.

More time for the debate would have been better to further dialogue, according to him.

"Timing is very unfortunate because it tended to draw into debate George Speight and his sentencing. We would have gathered more from the other side otherwise.

"The timing of this bill had something to do with George Speight and the security situation," he added.

However, Mr. Chaudhry said it will take time for a democratically elected government to feel safe and secure and unless all the elements involved are dealt with there will always be uprisings against governments.

He added that those involved with Speight will be revealed.

"The fullness of time will reveal who those people are.

"The real players have gone unscathed and George Speight has been the scapegoat," he said.

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

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