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Chaudhry remains Labour leader


Chaudhry remains Labour leader

4 February 2001

USP Pacific Journalism Online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/ USP Pasifik Nius: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/nius/index.html Have your say: http://www.TheGuestBook.com/vgbook/109497.gbook

CHAUDHRY DROPS BOMBSHELL 'I will not be a party to any government of national unity'

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Fiji's deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry will not be part of any government of national unity, reports the Sunday Sun.

Chaudhry, who yesterday staved off a leadership challenge at the Fiji Labour Party caucus meeting at Olosara, Sigatoka, dropped the bombshell shortly after being unanimously reaffirmed as party parliamentary leader.

"I will not be party to any government of national unity," an emotional Chaudhry told the meeting.

[The multiracial party won an outright majority in a landslide victory in the May 1999 general election, but formed a coalition with indigenous Fijian parties in the power-sharing spirit of the 1997 constitution.]

But Chaudhry will continue as party leader until February 19 when the Fiji Court of Appeal will rule on the interim regime's appeal against Justice Anthony Gates' ruling that the 1997 constitution is still in effect.

Chaudhry's announcement came in an emotionally charged meeting attended by 36 of the 37 deposed Labour members of Parliament.

Northern MP Mohammad Lateef Subedar, who is away overseas, was the only absentee.

Going into the meeting, Chaudhry had faced his strongest challenge from his deputy Prime Minister and academic Dr Tupeni Baba.

Other condenders had been the Leader of the House Joeli Kalou and People's Coalition Minister for Women and Culture Lavenia Padarath.

Sources said Mrs Padarath had thrown in her support behind Chaudhry and would have only contested the leadership had he been dumped.

In dropping his bombshell, Chaudhry said he would "stick to his principles".

In an editorial today, the Sunday Times said: "The confirmation of his position within the party reflects the confidence his colleagues have in his leadership and the grassroots support he enjoys.

"Although the party has left the door ajar for others to bid for the position of prime minister in the event of a government of national unity being formed, Chaudhry is unquestionably the popular leader. There is no doubt he commands the most respect in the party."

+++niuswire

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