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FIJI: Coalition backs Baba

FIJI: Coalition backs Baba

7 March 2001

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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Elected members of the Fiji people's coalition
government have backed deposed deputy prime minister Dr Tupeni Baba and
a government of national unity as the best way forward to solve the
country's political vacuum, the Sun reports.

This follows a meeting on Monday evening at the home of Fijian
Association Party (FAP) leader Adi Kuini Vuilaba Speed, also a deputy
prime minister in the elected government.

Many Indo-Fijian members were present, although deposed Prime Minister
Mahendra Chaudhry was not.

The resolution was then taken to a meeting of the Fiji Labour Party
(FLP) management committee held at Chaudhry's home at Suva Point.

Adi Kuini said yesterday that a government of national unity with a
multiparty cabinet was the best way forward for Fiji.

She said Chaudhry, who had previously shot down the idea of a GNU,
should step aside for an indigenous Fijian.

Adi Kuini told the Sun that Dr Baba, a former University of the South
Pacific professor, was the Coalition leader "right now".

However, the Daily Post reported that the country's leadership struggle
had taken a new turn with another contender entering the fray.

The Information Minister in the interim regime, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola,
was backed as prime minister by the Soqoqoqo ni Vakavulewa ni Taukei
(SVT) party to the acting President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

Referring to the coalition leading a potential GNU, SVT president Ro
Epeli Mataitini said: "We're not prepared to work under them."

The SVT, founded by former coup leader and prime minister Sitiveni
Rabuka, has only eight seats in the 71-seat Parliament. The coalition
commands at least 43 seats.

The Fiji Times reported that the interim regime would not resign until
asked to do so by the Great Council of Chiefs.

Acting President Iloilo was informed of this decision after the cabinet
met yesterday.

The decision of the cabinet was against the advice of the
Attorney-General's office that in line with last week's Appeal Court
ruling upholding the 1997 multiracial constitution, there was no option
but to resign, the Fiji Times reported.



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