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Fiji Times blasts Chaudhry over 'hate' message

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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): The Fiji Times today published a stinging attack on former prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry over what it claimed was a "message of hate" over neglect of the west - the country's economic heartland.

"Chaudhry has no shame," said the paper in an editorial, saying that the Labour Party leader openly advocated provincialism at the weekend opening of a new $200,000 chiefly bure for Tui Ba Ratu Sairusi Nagagavoka.

It said Chaudhry took the opportunity to "open old wounds and attempt to stir up animosity against the Fijian people of what he termed the eastern provinces".

The attack came as a two-day Court of Appeal hearing over the legality of the formation of government is due to open this week.

An international five-judge bench will hear the Fiji Labour Party's appeal over exclusion from the multi-party government formed by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase after last September's general election. The party argues that with 27 seats in the 71-seat Parliament it is entitled to a 47 percent share of cabinet seats.

After a High Court ruling on Friday ousting Opposition Leader Prem Singh from the Nadi Open seat, the FLP now effectively has 28 seats. Singh was the only National Federation Party member of Parliament.

The newspaper, at times controversial over its coverage of the former Chaudhry-led government and the post-coup period, ran a front-page banner headline "message of hate: Chaudhry sets Westerners against Eastern provinces".

Neither of Fiji's two other daily newspapers highlighted such an angle on the bure opening.

According to the Fiji Times in its news report, Chaudhry told guests the people of Ba province had been denied their "rightful place" in government.

Chaudhry said the province contributed close to 75 percent of Fiji's foreign exchange earnings and deserved greater recognition, the paper reported.

The province was urged to "wake up to what had happened" because for the past 30 years it had been subjected to rule from the East.

"Let me assure you that it is no coincidence that twice, in the history of Fiji, democratically elected governments headed by prime ministers from the Ba provinmce have been illegally overthrown," Chaudhry was quoted as saying.

Chaudhry was referring to Dr Timoci Bavadra's Labour-led Coalition Government, overthrown by third-ranked military officer Lieutenant-Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka in 1987, and the People's Coalition Government, led by Chaudhry and ousted by the George Speight putsch in May 2000.

In its editorial, the Fiji Times criticised Chaudhry for his attempt to "rake over the coals of animosity, which could so easily end in fragmentation of a peace-loving people".


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