|Once in tandem: Chaudhry and Bainimarama|
Chaudhry prepared 40 page report against SDL and PM Laisenia Qarase for Bainimarama to overthrow the SDL-FLP multi-party government
By Victor Lal
|Lynchpin: Chaudhry and Qarase pic Fiji Live|
In Bainimarama's case, he was on the verge of being charged with sedition for repeatedly threatening to overthrow the SDL-FLP multi-party Cabinet, and was also under investigation for the murders of CRW soldiers. We may recall that on 13 November 2006, he had written a letter to Qarase demanding that investigations against him (Bainimarama) and senior army officers be terminated. Bainimarama had also demanded the withdrawal of three contentious bills: the Racial Tolerance and Unity Bill, the Qoliqoli Bill and the Land Claims Tribunal Bill.
Mahendra Chaudhry, on the other hand, felt that Qarase had rigged the 2006 May general election to win political power. He had already set the tone of the general election when, a year before, he had told the FLP conference in July 2005: “If you as the voters exercise this choice then you must remain content with whatever has come your way in the past four years under the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua rule. But no, you must indeed be prepared to face even worst times because under the SDL there will be more instability and divisiveness. The economy will dip further, more and more people will be leaving our shores and the resources of the indigenous people will continue to be shamelessly exploited by bureaucrats, unscrupulous politicians and their collaborators for their own gain.”
Chaudhry also adopted Bainimarama's language when he declared,“The Government's determination to push through the controversial Amnesty Bill has created deep divisions in the nation, and leaves behind indelible impressions of an administration that backs lawless elements in society.” Fijian chiefs and the traditional way of life also came under attack from him: “It is these double standards that have and are still keeping the ordinary Fijian shackled to a now outdated system of feudal control, thus contributing to their poverty and misery, whilst certain chiefs and a large number of Fijian elites continue to substantially increase their wealth at the expense of their poorer subjects.”
As a victim of three previous coups, Chaudhry took another swipe at the proposed Reconciliation Bill, declaring in May 2005: “This nation made a mistake the first time it granted amnesty to the perpetrators of the 1987 coup. The trust and confidence we showed then was sadly displaced. This time around, we must take a hard line attitude to those who think they can overthrow a democratically-elected government with impunity. We have to stamp out this coup-culture that has developed in Fiji." (20 May 2005)
We may recall that after the 2006 election Bainimarama, in a blatant effort to influence the result of the May 2006 election, had failed to persuade two independent MPs to join the FLP so that Chaudhry could become Fiji's prime minister instead of the newly-elected SDL government led by Qarase. Bainimarama had claimed that the military had nothing to fear from FLP or Chaudhry as Fiji's prime minister.
Now, highly confidential documents have emerged from sources inside the Military Council which reveal that Chaudhry, privately, was the political lynch-pin who swayed many wavering military officers to go along with Bainimarama in the execution of the 2006 treasonous coup.
About two months before the SDL/FLP multi-party Cabinet was set up in 2006, Bainimarma asked Chaudhry after a morning function in Parliament if he could have a briefing session with the FLP leader, who had opted to stay out of Cabinet despite Qarase having offered him the deputy prime ministership.
Meanwhile, Chaudhry welcomed Bainimarama's offer and the following week the two had their first meeting in the Leader of the Opposition's office in the parliamentary complex. Their discussions focussed on the economy and the country's finances and of course a bleak future was painted by Chaudhry who also brought up the Qoliqoli Bill of the SDL government.
Chaudhry also accused Qarase of defying the Constitution, particularly his delaying tactics to set up the multi-party cabinet. He painted Qarase as “arrogant, racist by exercising little control over his rebellious MPs and also corrupt”.
Bainimarama was keen to have another briefing session and another was set up. At their next meeting Bainimarama wanted more details of alleged corrupt practices by Qarase and the SDL so Chaudhry assured him that he would provide this information in writing.
The FLP researcher and former Fiji Times journalist Asha Lakhan was then entrusted by Chaudhry to consult Hansard and compile all allegations of corruption thrown at the SDL government by FLP Opposition members during the first and second term of the SDL government. These were then summarised under each relevant sector and condensed into a 40 page report and delivered to Bainimarama. The report gave Bainimarama and his wavering military officers the political excuse to launch the treasonous coup.
We may recall that in one of my previous articles I pointed out the former US ambassador Larry Dinger's cable to his masters in Washington that “Asha is Chaudhry’s well-known but not publicly talked about mistress”.
See my article “India and Mahendra Chaudhry’s Vindictiveness” at http://rawfijinews.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/india-and-mahendra-chaudhrys-vindictiveness/).
Meanwhile, during the run up to the election and afterwards Dinger had reported other conversations and observations to Washington. In February 2006, he told Washington that Chaudhry was leaning towards the possible overthrow of any government led by Qarase.
Dinger reported: “One of the mystifying aspects of Commander Bainimarama is his strong advocacy of the rule of law when it comes to prosecuting those who instigated the 2000 coups, but his apparent willingness to contemplate RFMF illegal action to remove the current government if it fails to meet his expectations. He does not at all appear to crave a military government though. He has suggested the intended outcome, if necessary, would be to install an interim civilian government pending new elections. Leadership of the opposition FLP seems to have a similarly relativist approach. The FLP President, Mrs. Koroi, openly admitted to Fiji TV during the civil-military crisis in January that she would find it acceptable for the RFMF to remove the Qarase government and replace it with the pre-2000 Chaudhry government, to restore the previous status quo.
Chaudhry publicly backed away from Mrs. Koroi's statement at the time; but privately he seemed to imply to the Ambassador (Dinger) and Krawitz (East Asia Pacific/Asia North Pacific (EAP/ANP) director Howard Krawitz, who was visiting Fiji) that it might be justifiable for the RFMF to remove the Qarase government and install an interim replacement, pending fair elections.”
The rest is history. Chaudhry hastily joined the illegal regime as Finance Minister and for a while behaved as if he was running the nation. He was booted out of Cabinet after I exposed his three million dollars that he had been hiding from his Indo-Fijian supporters in his Australian bank account. (http://www.coupfourandahalf.com/2010/07/mahendra-millions-unanswered-questions.html,)
In May 2009 Chaudhry ran back to the US Embassy; this time to speak out against his former pet dictator. As new US ambassador Steve McGaan informed Washington: “On May 7, I met with former prime minister and leader of the Fiji Labor Party (FLP) Mahendra Chaudhry. We discussed the situation in Fiji following the abrogation of its constitution and possible ways forward for the country. He said that the abrogation was a lost opportunity and ended any viable resolution that included the political parties. Chaudhry supports amnesty for de facto Prime Minister Bainimarama if he withdraws from the political scene and allows for a coalition government to lead the country to elections. He responded favorably to my suggestion to meet with deposed PM Laisenia Qarase but said it should be a one-on-one meeting so they could resolve their long-standing differences.”
What about the future of Bainimarama? Chaudhry told McGaan, as the ambassador reported to Washington: “...He (Chaudhry) stressed that President Iloilo's act of abrogation, instigated by Bainimarama, not only abrogated the Constitution, but abrogated the Peoples Charter as well and reaffirmed the coup culture in Fiji.
Despite Bainimarama's declared intention to lead the country to elections in 2014, Chaudhry opined that the de facto government would be unable to promulgate a new order, call for elections or hold elections with any legitimacy without the inclusion of all political parties.
He said that he is planning to send a letter to Bainimarama telling him that he has lost credibility with the Fijian people and has only a small window of opportunity left to find a way forward. When I mentioned that I would be meeting with Bainimarama over the weekend, Chaudhry asked me to urge him to move things forward in a constructive manner.”
McGaan continued: “Chaudhry said the way forward for Bainimarama is to immediately lift all restrictions on the press and the right to assemble. He must allow a dialogue to begin among the political parties where they can come to agreement on the most appropriate way forward for the country. The de facto government should have a representative at these talks, but he insisted that it should not be the de facto PM. Bainimarama should not try to manage the dialogue process and should concentrate on running the government. Chaudhry added that to do this more effectively, Bainimarama must shed some of his portfolios. Most importantly, said Chaudhry, Bainimarama should not interfere with the political process. Once the political parties come to agreement on a broad framework, Chaudhry said, the UN and Commonwealth could then be brought back into the process to help with the preparations for elections and to draft appropriate changes to the Constitution.
He suggested, as have other opposition leaders, that the new constitution could include a provision offering amnesty to Bainimarama and the RFMF on condition that they return permanently to the barracks. Once the new constitution has been agreed upon, Bainimarama and the de facto government should cede the power to a coalition government that would prepare for elections by 2011.”
His pleadings with McGaan were a far cry from his boasting to the FLP supporters when, as illegal Finance Minister, he had told them in his annual 2008 report titled “Flawed democracy”: “The year under review has seen the restoration of political stability with the interim government of Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama in effective control of the nation. You will also recall that pre-December 2006 takeover, the FLP had been extremely concerned at the direction in which then Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was leading the affairs of the nation; in particular, the fact that he was refusing to consult on key national issues with the Labour leadership as his partner in the multi-party Cabinet. Indeed, one of the FLP’s overriding national concerns since the 2001 general elections has been the flawed system of ‘democracy’ practised in Fiji under the Qarase government. Not only did Qarase refuse to honour the power sharing provisions of Section 99 of the 1997 Constitution, his government in 2001 and 2006 cheated its way into power through electoral fraud and massive vote buying schemes. FLPs repeated calls for an independent inquiry into the conduct of the two general elections were not heeded until last year when the Fiji Human Rights Commission (FHRC) on its own initiative decided to commission an inquiry into the 2006 polls to determine “whether and to what extent, the right of all people in Fiji to vote in the 2006 general elections was respected”. The findings of the inquiry, released in September last year, confirmed the FLP’s stand that the 2006 polls had not been free and fair. (see his full report to the FLP at http://www.flp.org.fj/n080723.htm).
What Chaudhry did not tell his supporters nor the nation in 2008 was that he was among a group of Indo-Fijian treasonists who helped Bainimarama overthrow the SDL-FLP government – two other notable Indo-Fijians he had joined hands with were Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum and Brigadier-General Mohammed Aziz, the authors of the Doctrine of Necessity document, from which Bainimarama read excerpts on 5 December 2006.
The future dictator's major objective in seeking a meeting with Chaudhry was to prepare a political justification for his purported treasonous actions.
The 40 page report that Chaudhry prepared for Bainimarama and the wavering senior military officers is a document which reeks of treason – from a man who should have known better that coups breed dictators.