OPPONENT TO CALL FOR CHAUDHRY INVESTIGATION

SUVA, Fiji (FijiLive/Pacific Media Watch, Jan. 14) – A political opponent of deposed Fiji Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry says he will seek charges after Chaudhry made an address in India following a bitter attack by Assistant Information Minister Simione Kaitani.

Fiji Daily Post reports Kaitani as saying that government would lodge a complaint with police early next week asking for Chaudhry to be investigated for stirring "political instability" in Fiji.

Kaitani, who was implicated in support for the May 2000 coup that deposed the Chaudhry government, is pushing for the Fiji Labor Party leader to be charged with sedition. In Fiji, sedition carries a maximum sentence of life in jail.

The Assistant Minister believes the deposed premier's unwarranted views on the plight of Indo-Fijians at a conference of the Indian Diaspora in New Delhi was "inciting instability."

But Citizens Constitutional Forum (CCF) research director Jone Dakuvula rejected Kaitani's protests, saying Chaudhry's statement was factual, the Daily Post reported.

According to Kaitani, Chaudhry has been stirring up emotions by speaking on matters sensitive to the indigenous Fijian community in his speeches and interviews in New Delhi.

"He is speaking ill of the Laisenia Qarase government that is doing its best to take the country forward."

Kaitani claimed Chaudhry should be blaming himself for a number of wrongs that had happened in Fiji in the past.

Chaudhry, in his speech at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the international conference on Indian Diaspora, called on leaders to help people of Indian origin outside India whose rights were under assault.

He had made a special plea for help for Indo-Fijians.

"Our common people, descendants of indentured laborers, who have done no injustice to the indigenous community, are today crying out for justice. They need help," Chaudhry told the Diaspora.

"We are landless and defenseless. Deprived of our constitutional rights, we face statutory discrimination in basic areas of living and our people are denied security and police protection in a situation of seriously declining law and order."

CCF's Dakuvula said Chaudhry's statement about the political and economic status of Fiji was factual.

"It is a fact that poverty and unemployment is getting worse in Fiji and so many of our professional and skilled people of all races have emigrated in the past three years or plan to emigrate in the near future," he said.

"It is an expression of no confidence in Fiji's future. Corruption is increasing and government has not really done anything significant to tackle these problems."

Dakuvula said Chaudhry was doing a service to the Fijian and the Indian governments by informing them that policies that exploited religious differences and ethnic nationalism were counter-productive.

According to figures obtained by The Daily Post, 16,200 people left the country between May 2000 and October 2002.

Of this, 14,169 were Indo-Fijians, 1307 indigenous Fijians, and the rest Rotumans, Chinese and others.

January 13, 2003

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