Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Victor Lal Challenge to Chaudhry: Disclose Businessmen Who Forced you to Join Illegal Regime

by Victor Lal

Among the litany of LIES Mahendra Pal Chaudhry claims I have made up in the article about his 40 page treasonous document that he supplied to Frank Bainimarama in the overthrow the SDL-FLP government in 2006, he claims that he was pressured into accepting the Finance Minister's post by certain prominent members of the business community who were anxious to have the economy put back on track.

I have dealt with Chaudhry for over a decade, first as a defender of his human and political rights (calling him a “political saint in 2001) when he was deposed after the Speight coup in 2000. But in recent years I have become one of his bitterest critics after having found out that he was hiding millions in Australian and New Zealand bank accounts from his Indo-Fijian supporters and FLP parliamentary colleagues. He fought two general elections, in 2001 and 2006, without disclosing his millions.

Heroic welcome but where's the $2million?
Like the exposure of his $2million hoard, be rest assured, that one of these days I will be providing documentary evidence to support my claims that he prepared that treasonous 40 page document to help overthrow the democratically elected multi-party government.

In his reply, also posted on his official FLP website but not bearing his famous signature, Chaudhry claims that my article about his links to the 2006 coup is “an outrageous pack of lies, sheer mischief making timed, no doubt, to sow discord between Mr Chaudhry and Mr Qarase”. 

Well, that is his standard model reply. When, in 2008, I had called on the Military Council to ignore his call for media legislation, he replied that I was a conspirator by publishing his tax affairs because I was trying to foster a division between the interim administration and the military council. He was then the illegal Finance Minister in dictator's Cabinet. Now, he is accusing me of trying to sow discord between him and the deposed Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

For my reply, which was reproduced from the Fiji SUN, see the following website:
Qarase and Andrews. pic Fiji Times
It is curious that Chaudhry has chosen not to comment on the contents of former US ambassador Larry Dinger and his successor Steven McGaan's cables to Washington, especially Dinger's where he claimed that Chaudhry was leaning towards the overthrow of the Qarase government if SDL won the 2006 general elections. Was Dinger lying?
We may recall that in another posting recently, I had recalled the former Police Commissioner Andrew Hughes meetings with Bainimarama, as relayed by Dinger to Washington: “In late February 2006, Hughes had a private meeting with Bainimarama where he tried to dissuade him from carrying out a coup, warning that it would be catastrophic for Fiji. Bainimarama rejected Hughes’ view suggesting that unnamed Indo-Fijian businessmen had told him Fiji could bounce back from another coup in 18 months.” 

Meanwhile, in January 2008, in one of my regular columns in the Fiji SUN (then edited by Russell Hunter whom the Chaudhrys had helped the regime to deport after his Taxgate affair; we were even informed by his own moles that Hunter would be out of the country by tomorrow morning), I had written under the heading “Re-igniting Old Spat: 
“Ever since his release from the clutches of George Speight and the elite Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit, Mahendra Chaudhry has maintained, without adducing any shred of evidence, that the 2000 coup was heavily financed by Indo-Fijian businessmen opposed to the socio-economic reform programmes of his People’s Coalition Government and its determination to stamp out official corruption. A number of these firms, the Fiji Labour Party claimed, were being investigated by the Chaudhry government for over-pricing goods brought under price control, for engaging in corrupt practices, and for tax evasion.
We, in the London-based Movement for Democracy in Fiji, were supplied by the FLP with a list containing the names of about 30 prominent companies and people who allegedly financed the overthrow and subsequent imprisonment for 56 days in Parliament of Mr Chaudhry and 42 members of his government. The list was meant to guide us in drawing up “smart sanctions” and punishing some of the country’s top business houses, defeated politicians, transport companies, distributors, retailers, and manufacturers who had allegedly, according to the FLP, committed the heinous crime of treason by aiding or abetting Speight’s coup.
The list of names of the country’s leading businessmen as being implicated in the destabilisation process that led to the coup, we were assured, was the same names that Mr Chaudhry had forwarded to the Fiji police after the coup. We were later reassured of the identities of the alleged coup financiers when we personally met Mr Chaudhry and his entourage in an upmarket London hotel where he urged us to fight for the restoration of democracy, constitutionalism, human rights, and for him to be re-appointed as the rightful prime minister of Fiji.” 
His Peoples Coalition Government website had alleged that businessmen Hari Punja, Sir James Ah Koy and then banker Laisenia Qarase were behind the 2000 coup. All three denied the allegations levelled against them. 

Chaudhry had also told Parliament: “The public needs to be assured that the rich, the influential, and the powerful in our society will not escape the long arm of the law for their involvement, in whichever way it be – whether direct or indirect – in the heinous crime of treason.” The police had confirmed that 10 Indo-Fijian businessmen were under investigation surrounding the 2000 coup.

Now, Chaudhry is claiming that he was pressured by prominent businessmen to accept the Finance Minister's job after the 2006 coup. I call upon Chaudhry to disclose the names of these businessmen so that I can compare them with the ones who had told Bainimarama to carry out the coup because Fiji could bounce back from another coup in 18 months.
I wonder if these were the same businessmen who had Chaudhry in mind to be Bainimarama's new Finance Minister?

Please name those treasonous businessmen who enticed you into becoming the illegal Finance Minister under dictator Frank Bainimarama. Are they the same ones who also helped Bainimarama depose you in the 2000 coup?

I still have that list of Indo-Fijian businessmen from 2000 on me, which you supplied to us in the London hotel, on your way back from India, but without you telling us that you had secretly received $2million from your “Motherland”, which would end up in your Australian account, to be transferred by the Indian consulate in Sydney.

You were dubiously cleared of tax evasion because you were in charge of the nation's illegal purse strings. Now, the very treasonists Cabinet colleagues, have put you on trial on twelve counts of money laundering and tax evasion.

Swallow the fact, and stop spewing lies, as you have in your reply to that 40 page treasonous document: “LIE 6: Lal says Mr Chaudhry was “booted” out of the Cabinet as a result of his tax allegations. In fact, the inquiry set up by the Prime Minister on this very matter cleared Mr. Chaudhry of all allegations. But that would be too much for Victor Lal to swallow.

Indeed, you can do better, Chaudhry, by providing us with the names of these prominent businessmen who pressured you to become the illegal Finance Minister. They are not holding a gun at your head!
In 2008, he had described his appointment as the new illegal Finance Minister as a “strange twist of destiny”, with the right-wing The Hindu newspaper of India, informing its readers:
Staging a coup last December, Commodore Bainimarama said he would seek to mend the "racial divide" between the majority-Melanesians and the Indian community. His invitation to Mr. Chaudhry for the Cabinet post is a sequel to this pledge. A key aspect of the "mandate" of this interim Cabinet is to restore democracy through a general election, at an unspecified time, in a "stable and conducive" political and economic situation.
After being sworn in as the Interim Minister for Finance, National Planning, Public Enterprise, and Sugar Reforms, Mr. Chaudhry described the event as "a strange twist of destiny in my case." Indicating that he was not referring to the circumstances in which he earlier ceased to be the Prime Minister, Mr. Chaudhry said: "Almost 20 years ago, the Bavadra Government, in which I was the Finance Minister, was deposed by Colonel Rabuka. [Now] I am being reinstated in the same position by the Republic of Fiji Military Forces led by Cmdr. Bainimarama.”

There was no mention of businessmen having pressured him to take charge of the economic ship of the nation. As I have already argued, he was part of the shadowy treasonists who had colluded with the military to follow in Rabuka's footsteps – to perpetuate the coup culture in Fiji.
And, that is why he had never joined the deposed multi-party SDL-FLP government. He decided, however, to join the Devil that he knew before the coup – dictator Frank Bainimarama who, in turn, knew of the contents of the 40 page coup document.

Chaudhry set out, as former US ambassador Larry Dinger, informed Washington, to make Laisenia Qarase's post-coup life uncomfortable:
“Fiji interim Prime Minister Bainimarama has declined a proposal to meet with deposed PM Qarase and others, under the auspices of Commonwealth Secretariat envoy Sir Paul Reeves. Bainimarama said the Military Council objected, but Reeves reportedly puts the blame on interim Finance Minister Chaudhry. 
[The] former New Zealand Governor General Sir Paul Reeves is undertaking an effort at Commonwealth Secretariat behest, to facilitate a political dialogue in Fiji.  Reeves tested the waters in December, and is now back on a March 1-9 visit.  He visited Embassy Suva March 4.  Reeves is savvy about Fiji, and he clearly recognized that the chances would be slim to get Bainimarama in a useful dialogue with Qarase and others.  However, he reported the initial soundings were reasonably positive, except for interim Finance Minister Chaudhry, who flatly opposed the effort. Reeves reportedly believes Bainimarama's real reason for saying "no" is his reliance on Chaudhry's advice.”

Dinger also noted that, “Now that Chaudhry has power again, with a degree of control over the purse,” he was engaging in “vindictiveness against his perceived opponents”.

The devil is in the details – and one of these days we will read that treasonous 40 page coup document.

Editor's note: 
  • A member of the Constitutional Review Commission and former FLPparliamentarian Satendra Nandan had made similar claims in 2000, alleging that "business interests were behind the 2000 coup". He claimed that vested business interests rather than ethnic tensions  probably fueled the armed takeover of the Fijian parliament by George Speight. Nandan said the most likely explanation for the flare-up had to do with vested interesets who felt cheated by the Chaudhry Government. He changed his tune after 2006 claiming that Laisenia Qarase's multi-party government was blatantly racist and Bainimarama's coup was "lesser of the two evils". As a reward for his public support of the coup, he is now one of the members of Professor Yash Ghai's Constitutional Review Commission. See Nandan's response to the 2000 Speight coup:

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