Politics of deceit and connivance

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Minister for Finance Professor Biman Prasad and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry. Picture FT FILE

I BELIEVE our democracy would benefi  greatly from a more constructive and respectful debate where leaders focus on policies and programs that will improve the lives of all Fijians.  It is time for us to move away from petty-minded agitators and work together towards a brighter future”.
The above appeared as a Letter to the Editor by Kevin Stone of NSW Australia, in The Fiji Times on Thursday, in response to Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry’s continuous attack on
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Professor Biman Prasad.
Stone is perfectly right to remind national leaders to focus on issues. He is part of an overwhelming majority who know that Mr Chaudhry’s statements carry a perfect score of 10 out of
10 for being full of misinformation, aimed at misleading the people.
Stone was undoubtedly infuriated by Mr Chaudhry dodging the real issue of providing irrefutable evidence to prove Prof Prasad actually promised $110 as price for a tonne of sugarcane during the election campaign.
Instead the former PM tried to tarnish the DPM’s credibility.

Not a surprise

Why? Because Mr Chaudhry cannot fathom the fact that Prof Prasad, as leader of the National Federation Party, is in government.
And that he is not only out, but outside Parliament and in grave danger of finding himself in the political wilderness.
Therefore, Stone shouldn’t be surprised that Mr Chaudhry’s political DNA is to repeat misinformation in the hope it sticks. And this worked for him in the past.
But now he has hit a brickwall. A small minded agitator will never talk of nation building.
He will only focus on selfinterest and one-upmanship. For him political survival at any cost is the priority. Not the people and not the nation.
And this opinion is the start of a few to demonstrate why Mr Chaudhry will not cease his gutter- level campaign against Prof Prasad and conveniently ignores his own backyard filled with political
filth of broken promises and trashed principles.
How Mr Chaudhry, once a champion for cane growers, treated them as sacrificial lambs, and how $AUD1.6 million ended up in his bank account in Australia, in the aftermath of the May
2000 coup, will come later.
For now we need to be reminded of his political treachery. And for this, Mr Chaudhry, together with his one-time masters, are enjoying irrevocable immunity under the 2013 Constitution. Has
he ever talked about it?
That Mr Chaudhry didn’t and does not, isn’t a surprise. Because it is in his self-interest not to agitate about it.
And so here begins the chapter of political immorality and complete lack of political credibility of a man who was once revered by his community, but who is now as unproductive as someone trying daily to milk a barren cow.

Benefiting from 2006 coup
The reconciliation service organised by the Methodist Church in Fiji and Rotuma on May 14 as part of the Girmit commemoration holiday, declared by Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka’s Coalition
government, was historic.
The church, vanua and PM Rabuka himself — on behalf of the indigenous or i-Taukei community said sorry to the descendants of the Girmitiya — the Indo-Fijian community — for the coups of 1987, 2000 and even 2006.
The Methodist Church itself was a victim of the 2006 coup. But it demonstrated humanity and humility in even saying sorry for a coup that deposed an indigenous-led government of the then prime minister Laisenia Qarase.
Even though it was a genuinely multi-party SDL-FLP government as mandated by the 1997 Constitution.
But Mr Chaudhry only talked about 1987 and 2000 coups, not 2006 even if nine of FLP Cabinet Ministers were ousted by Mr Frank Bainimarama.
Was Mr Chaudhry concerned that democracy had been usurped at the barrel of the gun for the 4th time on December 5, 2006?
Was he concerned that nine of his members who were ministers were also removed? Was he concerned that FLP Senators in the then bi-cameral parliament were also ousted?
The answer — an emphatic NO.

Bainimarama’s Robin Hood
When Mr Bainimarama became the regime’s PM in January 2007, exactly a month after the coup, he appointed Mr Chaudhry as his Finance and Sugar minister.
Also on board on the regime’s cabinet were FLP members Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi and Poseci Bune.
A year later, FLP’s Tom Ricketts also became a minister.
Remember Mr Bainimarama describing Mr Chaudhry as the regime’s “Robin Hood”? However, the opposite happened under his stewardship of two important portfolios’. The FLP’s Annual
Report at its 2008 Delegates Conference makes interesting reading.
“Put FijiFirst, the rest will follow”. “Reforms first, elections later”. These were the mantra of the Fiji Labour Party in a report presented to the delegates by none other than its leader and general secretary Mahendra Pal Chaudhry.
Fiji’s Robin Hood became the prince of usurpers of democracy and turning a blind eye to the violation of human rights and unlawful sacking of people in positions of authority during his 18 month stint in the regime.
Two publishers/editors were deported and declared persona non grata while Mr Chaudhry was part of the regime. A high commissioner was also expelled. But Mr Chaudhry didn’t even flutter
an eyelid.
That is why he didn’t refer to the 2006 coup during the Girmit reconciliation service. And to date, he has not said sorry nor apologised for being part of a regime and helping erect its foundations
for 16 years of rule.

Coup good for the economy
Yet, Mr Chaudhry has the audacity to make statements that are untrue, about a democratically elected government, which has started to clean up the mess of 16 years that Mr Chaudhry knows
too well about but won’t say.
Again, Why? Because here is a leader who wholeheartedly backed the coup less than three weeks after being given the boot from the regime. This is from his statement, published by The Fiji Times on July 30, 2008 and it stated: “Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry says the economy has improved — thanks to the coup of 2006..
He made the comment in media conference yesterday that he said was in response to the negative assessment of the state of the economy and Government finances by academics at the Fiji Update Seminar.
“When USP people talk they don’t give you figures at all,” he said.
“If you look at Dr Biman Prasad’s analysis, it’s without any figures or facts,” he said.
At that time, the then Dr Prasad was a senior academic at USP, who had also been removed from the Board of FIRCA — Fiji Islands Revenue & Customs Authority by none other than Mr Chaudhry as the regime’s Finance Minister.
Wow — what a record a for a person who refuses to provide irrefutable evidence.

Total lack of credibility
Mr Chaudhry’s appointment as the regime’s Finance and Sugar Minister caught many by surprise.
Many were shocked … it is best captured by the Editorial of the New Zealand Herald newspaper of January 3, 2007, titled “Chaudhry muddies road back to democracy”, which started: – “There is little more melancholy than the sight of a person’s last shreds of credibility being burned. Such was the case when this week Fiji’s former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry threw in his lot with Commodore Frank Bainimarama, taking the post of Finance Minister in the military leader’s sham government. Here was a man who twice before had been deposed from government in coups lending his hand to the orchestrator of a reprise. If politics sometimes creates strange bedfellows, this was totally beyond the pale. Mr Chaudhry has tendered just one justification for his decision. The constitutionality or otherwise of the Government that I pledged to serve is yet to be determined’, he said. It was a crass excuse given the international condemnation of the coup. The defection
from the cause of democracy of the leader of Fiji’s second-ranking political party and its first ethnic Indian leader muddies the road back to normality.
“Mr Chaudhry seemed to know better in the immediate aftermath of the coup. Then, he said he would not join the military regime because it was illegal, but was willing to work with it to restore democracy.
“He should not have deviated from that. His many qualms about the ousted Qarase Government’s divisive policies and governance shortcomings, and the election framework, could all have been addressed within Fiji’s democratic processes.
Perhaps there should have been no surprise, however. This was the same man who after the 2001 elections, craved power so much that he contemplated a coalition government with the party of George Speight, the man who overthrew his democratically elected administration and held him hostage for eight weeks.
“Then, as now, Mr Chaudhry saw no credibility problem. Now, as then, his political judgment is horrendous. The moral authority with a figure brutally and illegally ousted from power has evaporated.”
To be continued…
 KAMAL IYER is a member of the National Federation Party.
The views here are his and not necessarily shared by the newspaper

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