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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Jan. 17) – Fiji Labour Party opposition leader Mahendra Chaudhry has joined National Alliance Party president Ratu Epeli Ganilau in blaming Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase for the recent standoff between the army commander and the government, saying. Qarase had only himself to blame for the security crisis facing the Government.

"His attempts to divert attention by dragging the Fiji Labour Party into the crisis is just a red herring," Chaudhry said.

[PIR editor’s note: Mahendra Chaudhry was overthrown as Fiji Prime Minister during the country’s 2000 coup. ]

He said a record of Mr. Qarase's actions since taking office would show he had consistently undermined the rule of law and placed national security at risk.

"He must therefore take full responsibility for the current deteriorating state of affairs between him and the army,'' said Mr. Chaudhry. "First, the Prime Minister is alleged to have attempted to oust the President from office. This act of sedition was only aborted when the military refused to comply."

Mr. Chaudhry said the recent standoff erupted when the Government delayed the appointment of a judge advocate to head the court martial. He said Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama then accused the Government of going soft on the prosecution of those behind the coup of 2000 and then the army mutiny, and of advancing racist policies.

"On both counts he is fully justified,'' said Mr. Chaudhry. "The army carries the responsibility for national security. The Government posed a threat to national security by facilitating the early release of terrorist elements."

Mr. Chaudhry said the military was justified in taking a hard line against any threat to national security or to law and order.

"It is justified in the national interest to remain vigilant against any development that threatens law and order. The Government appears bent on reducing the military to being a pliant tool so that it can take complete control," he said.

Mr. Qarase labeled the comments of Mr. Chaudhry 'full of lies and distortions.'

"It is very obviously yet another attempt by Mr. Chaudhry to draw attention away from the damning public statement by the President of the Labour Party, Mrs. Jokapeci Koroi, supporting an illegal takeover of government," he said.

He said a complaint has been lodged with Police into her comments.

January 18, 2006

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