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Chaudhry beats off challenges

Chaudhry beats off challenges

5 March 2001

USP Pacific Journalism Online:
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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Fiji's ousted Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has
beaten public challenges with the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) caucus today
confirming his leadership despite calls for his removal, Pacnews

While the caucus announced its unanimous support for Chaudhry, many
members revealed their intention to remove the FLP leader through a vote
of no confidence in the next session of Parliament.

The Fiji Times reported the deposed coalition's junior deputy prime
minister, Adi Kuini Speed, leader of the Fijian Association Party (FAP),
had said Chaudhry should not return as prime minister.

Senior deputy prime minister Dr Tupeni Baba in the coalition government,
a former University of the South Pacific academic and a staunch FLP
leader, had earlier said he would be prepared to lead a government of
national unity.

At a caucus meeting attended by only 14 of the 36 members of the FLP in
Parliament in the capital today, reported Pacnews, members agreed that
the best option now was a government of national unity with a multiparty

Chaudhry was absent, preferring to send his apology along with seven
other members, Pacnews reported.

"The FLP parliamentary caucus in line with its earlier decision taken in
Sigatoka hereby unanimously agree to ask his excellency the President to
initiate steps for the formation of the government of national unity
with a multiparty cabinet under section 99 of the 1997 Constitution,"
FLP senior member Krishna Datt announced at the end of the two-hour
meeting in Suva.

Datt was quick to reject reports of a rift in the FLP. Journalists
covering the closed-door meeting could hear heated debate in the meeting

Pacnews was reliably informed the mood of the caucus was that a change
in leadership was needed before the government of national unity could
be established.

"The general feeling of the members is that of respect for Chaudhry and
sensitivity of what has happened to him since the coup. The caucus is
very concerned that nothing should be done to hurt his feelings. The
caucus would rather that Chaudhry himself step aside instead of telling
him to do so," Datt told journalists.

The Fiji Times today reported that Adi Kuini referred to Chaudhry as
"former prime minister", saying the situation in Fiji would worsen if he

"I do not think it's wise and I think the former prime minister should
use good sense and realise that it is going to be very unstable if he
returns as PM," she told the newspaper.



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