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Baba defends Serevi's right to free speech

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BABA DEFENDS SEREVI'S RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/docs/news/wansolnews/wansol2708013.html

By ASHWINI PRABHA: August 27, 2001 Wansolwara Online (USP)

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): New Labour Unity Party leader Dr Tupeni Baba today spoke out strongly in defence of Fiji sevens rugby star Waisele Serevi and freedom of speech.

He also criticised the Fiji Rugby Football Union for its attempt to gag the star, who led a revitalised Fiji team at the weekend to a 35-19 thrashing of Australia at the World Games in Japan.

Serevi personally dedicated the victory to Dr Baba and "my little boy" who will have his first birthday next Sunday.

News reports at the weekend said the FRFU had threatened to drop Serevi from the national sevens team because of his "political links".

Dr Baba said: "Serevi has political rights to say what he wants. He has rights under the constitution to freely express his support."

He told Wansolwara Online at the Marcellin Primary School polling station, Vatuwaqa, his party has been in touch with Serevi. He had assured Serevi of their support for him to exercise his rights.

Dr Baba claimed Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL), led by caretaker Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, was "largely controlling" the FRFU.

"They are just trying to get to Serevi for supporting us."

He said FRFU chairman Tom Vuetilovoni was a candidate for SDL and the SDL had also pressured the FRFU.

During the lead up to the election, Serevi has campaigned vigorously for the NLUP with fullpage advertisements in local dailies, and also on television.

In one Fiji Times advertisement, he is pictured with the slogan "Give peace a chance".

He encouraged people to vote for NLUP and said that there was only one man who could unite this country - Dr Baba.

Last month the FRFU tried to ban Fiji Television for broadcasting the advertisements, which at that time showed Serevi - sporting his own white Fiji national jersey - with Dr Baba.

The Fiji Times reported FRFU secretary Paula Cavu saying that Serevi would be dropped if he continued to have political links.

"If it's true, Serevi will be dropped from the team," Cavu was quoted as saying.

"This is a rugby team representing Fiji. Serevi will be disciplined if this is true."

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