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Fiji’s Ex-Leader Plans to Lobby UN

August 12, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Fiji’s deposed prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry said Saturday he would travel to the United Nations to lobby for the restoration of democracy to the South Pacific nation.

Chaudhry, who was ousted by a coup in May, said he would discuss the possibility of sending U.N. troops to Fiji during the visit.

Chaudhry said he would also planned to meet with officials at the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, which represents former British colonies.

He did not name a date or location for the meetings.

Chaudhry, Fiji’s first ethnic Indian prime minister, was ousted after failed businessman George Speight led an armed group into Fiji’s Parliament on May 19 and took dozens of lawmakers, including Chaudhry, hostage. He claimed ethnic Indian Fijians, who make up 44 percent of the population, had too much power and were threatening indigenous Fijian culture.

His rebels held the hostages for eight weeks, freeing the last of them only after the military discarded Fiji’s multiracial constitution, ousted the government and agreed to an amnesty for the rebels.

``The norms of democratic states are very clear, and the Commonwealth must not be a hypocrite and bend the rules to permit these people to just carry on,″ Chaudhry said Saturday in Sydney, where he sought treatment for cracked ribs sustained in a beating by coup rebels.

``There must be a return to democracy″ in Fiji, he added.

Chaudhry also criticized the interim government that was installed during the coup by a military-backed president.

``The government that is in place must not be given recognition and the international community must insist there be a clean up of the army,″ Chaudhry said.

Speight was arrested late last month, just days after releasing the last of the hostages. The coup leader is being held in pretrial custody in a barbed wire pen on a prison island near Suva, Fiji’s capital.

On Friday, Speight was charged with treason, a crime which carries the death penalty in Fiji. Speight and a group of 14 key supporters were remanded to custody until Aug. 25.

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