17 Jan 2006

Fiji Labour leader blames PM for feud with military

11:13 am on 17 January 2006

The Fiji Labour Party leader has blamed the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, for the feud between the government and the military which led to intervention by the acting president and commander-in-chief, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

The Fiji Sun quotes Mahendra Chaudhry as saying Mr Qarase's attempt to divert attention by dragging the Fiji Labour Party into the crisis was just a red herring.

Mr Chaudhry claims that a record of Mr Qarase's actions will show that he has consistently undermined the rule of law and placed national security at risk.

He alleges that the prime minister's attempt to oust the president from office was only aborted when the military refused to comply.

Mr Chaudhry says Mr Qarase tried to use the Office of the President to get the commander to take a softer line with rebel soldiers and others being prosecuted for involvement in the 2000 coup and mutinies.

He says the government had refused to renew Commodore Bainimarama's contract because of his insistence on prosecuting all those involved and the contract was only renewed under pressure.

Mr Chaudhry says the government then abused its discretionary authority by selectively releasing those convicted and jailed for coup related offences.

The Labour leader says it is the government which is posing a threat to national security by facilitating the early release of terrorist elements.

Mahendra Chaudhry says the military has every right to interfere because Prime Minister Qarase has consistently failed to uphold the law.

"As a government, we have a duty to stay within the bounds of the law to observe the constitution and of course to uphold the law, and as long as the government does that, the military keeps out."

But Mr Qarase is quoted as saying Mr Chaudhry's statement is full of lies and distortions.

Mr Qarase says Mr Chaudhry is trying to draw attention away from the damning public statement by the Labour Party president, Jokapeci Koroi, supporting an illegal takeover of the government by the military.