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Chaudhry Hits Back In 'Indian Plight' Controversy

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SUVA (FijiLive/Pacific Media Watch): Deposed Fiji prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry has pledged to continue highlighting the plight of Fiji-Indians at every international forum, whatever the criticism at home, the Daily Post reports.

The Fiji Labour Party leader said he was not deterred by threats from the Fiji government.

³If the illegal regime is going to discriminate against 44 percent of its people, it should be prepared to meet criticism,² Chaudhry said.

Speaking from New Delhi amid media controversy in Fiji, Chaudhry said the cause of the Indo-Fijian community had received considerable exposure at the Diaspora meeting in New Delhi with pressure mounting on India to take a firm stand on the issue.

Chaudhry met with the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Opposition leader Sonia Gandhi on Friday and described the meeting as "very fruitful".

He said there was a lot of support for the Indo-Fijian community in India.

³I am getting a lot of media coverage.

³People of Indian origin from Mauritius and Suriman and the Global Organisation of People of Indian Origin have been very vocal on the plight of our people in Fiji and have urged a strong stand on the issue,² he said.

Chaudhry, who is representing the Indo-Fijian community, addressed the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference at its opening session and later in the afternoon chaired a session.

Responding to criticism from Multi-Ethnic Affairs Minister George Raj in the Fiji media, Chaudhry claimed the Fiji Government representative had no recognition at the conference.

³George Shiu Raj is a non-entity here,² Chaudhry said.

³If the illegal regime is going to discriminate against 44 per cent of its people, it should be prepared to meet criticism.²

Chaudhry said his international campaign would continue.

He said he had made further representations to the United Nations Committee Against Racial Discrimination and he intends to send a representative to its next meeting in March to ensure Fiji-Indians got a strong hearing.

He was responding to threats by Information Minister Simione Kaitani that Chaudhry should be arrested and charged with "sedition" for bringing the country into disrepute and fuelling passions at home.

Sedition carries a maximum sentence of life in jail.

* Kaitani was widely implicated in the Speight coup by news reports, including a 2000 ABC Four Corners investigative report, Cyclone George.



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