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Fiji: Baba detained at caucus meeting

Fiji: Baba detained at caucus meeting

5 March 2001

USP Pacific Journalism Online:
USP Pasifik Nius:

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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Fiji police broke up a meeting of the deposed five
party coalition government today and detained former deputy prime
minister Dr Tupeni Baba for questioning, media reports said.

Radio reports said Dr Baba told reporters that he had not been arrested.

Police spokesperson ASP Sera Bernard said Dr Baba was held for
questioning for two hours for "breaching the public order" which police
said was still in place under the emergency decree.

Bernard was quoted on FijiLive as saying that according to the emergency
decree any gathering of people could not take place without a permit.

The Court of Appeal last week ruled that Fiji's interim government was
illegal and must stand down by March 15.

The 1997 multiracial constitution was also upheld by the court with the
implication being that the military imposed decrees after the attempted
coup were also now illegal.

Mahendra Chaudhry, who was ousted in the coup, said over the weekend he
remained the legitimate prime minister.

Dr Baba, former deputy prime minister and foreign minister, said that
members of the coalition had asked him to challenge Chaudhry as leader.

Earlier, Pacnews reported that Chaudhry had beaten public challenges in
the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) caucus today, confirming his leadership
despite calls for his removal.

While the caucus announced its 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.

Dr Baba, 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.

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

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

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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