18 Jan 2007

Fiji courts reinstate sacked sugar industry executive

11:31 am on 18 January 2007

There are claims in Fiji that the country's new finance minister - Mahendra Chaudhry - wants to seize control of the crucial sugar industry.

The claim's been made by the suspended chief executive of the Sugar Cane Growers Council, Jaganath Sami, who was ousted from his office by the military early this month.

His suspension followed claims by Commodore Frank Bainimarama of financial mismanagement within the council and was said to be part of the clean-up campaign which saw the removal of the Qarase-led government last month.

Mr Sami has mounted the first legal challenge against the military since last month's coup, on the basis his suspension was illegal.

Mr Sami believes Mr Chaudhry, who also holds the sugar industry portfolio, wants to remove him, partly because he supports the National Federation Party.

"That could be one of the reasons why he wants me out. He wants to take control of the council, which he hasn't been able to do under the law. Perhaps he's now trying to do it with the use of the military."

The High Court yesterday ordered Mr Sami to return to work until next week, but the military barred him from doing so.