Chaudhry Explains Baba Expulsion
Issue No: 1004 7 August 2001
Elected Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry has explained the forces behind the attempt to split the Fiji Labour Party and the eventual expulsion of Tupeni Baba and a few other Labour MPs.
Presenting the Activities Report to the Fiji Labour Party meeting, Chaudhry stated:
"While the Prime Minister and his government colleagues were held hostage, a group within the FLP began making overtures to the SVT and other parties in opposition, including the rebel FAP faction, to form a government of National Unity with a Fijian as Prime Minister. The prime movers behind this were Navin Maharaj (former Secretary General of FLP) and Dalpat Rathod (Party Treasurer). Some FLP MPs who were not taken hostage or who had been freed after only a day's detention - were also drafted in by Maharaj and Rathod. A number of businessmen were reported to have initiated this move.
Instead of demanding the freeing of hostages and the reinstatement of the People's Coalition government, these elements were supposedly negotiating the release of those held hostage by doing business with the very people who were largely responsible for organising and financing the terrorist take-over of Parliament on May 19.
They had absolutely no mandate from any constituent arm of the Party to engage in any negotiations which would undermine the Fiji Labour Party and the people's Coalition government. It is since established that Navin Maharaj, Dalpat Rathod and a number of businessmen, among them those who had financed the terrorists, were responsible for promoting the initiative.
This was done despite objections from Party President Jokapeci Koroi and Vice President S N Sharma. Unfortunately, high degree salesmanship of the idea led people to believe that all was being done to secure the release of the hostages whereas the game plan was to install a government which would be hand-picked by the business community to serve their interests.
But all this was being done in a vacuum with the instigators of the scheme having no idea of what was actually in the minds of the terrorists and the military. They were simply not interested in a GNU or in reconvening parliament or saving the Constitution. They wanted their own government installed and eventually this is what transpired - a combination of Speight's and military's nominees comprised the interim administration after the military had abrogated the Constitution and assumed executive control.
The tragedy of it all was that by then those who were supposedly representing our interest had committed the FLP and the rest of the civil society to push for GNU. By the time the Prime Minister and government members were released from detention on 13 July 2001, word had gone in various submissions by the FLP to the international community that they should support the GNU concept to reconvene parliament and restore democracy.
Early in 2001, Dr Tupeni Baba, vice president and some others with him began their assault on the Party Leader Mahendra Chaudhry. This came about soon after Justice Gates judgement on 15 November 2000, upholding that the 1997 Constitution hade not been abrogated; members elected to parliament in 1999 remained MPs and parliament should be recalled by the President.
Once again, Navin Maharaj spearheaded the move to undermine the Party leadership and split the FLP. Dr Baba was promoted as the Leader who could assemble a GNU under him. Baba began clandestine meetings with SVT, Nationalists, and others to persuade them to accept him as Leader of GNU. They encouraged him but all along their mission was to use Baba to split the FLP. They succeeded but Baba failed. The FLP was split and Baba was dumped by them. Baba then moved to form his own political party with his followers, Haroon Ali Shah, Dalpat Rathod, Isireli Vuibau, Vinod Maharaj and some others."
See the full FLP Activities Report at: http://www.pcgov.org/docs_c/activities_report_2000.htm