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“USP not a peace-building institution in 2000?”

08/08/2016

USP not a peace-building University in 2000?

Soon after the 2000 coup and the release of the Coalition Government hostages, and having been in the Fiji Parliament and knowing political leaders on both sides, I attempted to bring the two sides together at USP with the assistance of Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.
I booked a Meeting Room below the Administration Building.  Ratu Inoke Kubuabola came from the SVT, but not Mr Mahendra Chaudhry. He sent the FLP President Jackie Koroi and Tupeni Baba. Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, by then the Leader of the SVT having deposed Rabuka, was quite annoyed at being rebuffed by the Leader of the FLP.

During the meeting, extremely and strangely belligerent USP security guards barged in and declared that our meeting was political and not allowed by USP regulations. We were forced to end the meeting.  The next day I was rebuked by the Vice Chancellor, Esekia Solofa for organizing the meeting.

We then organized a second meeting at the home of the NZ Ambassador (Tia Barret).  Again Mahendra Chaudhry refused to attend himself, but sent Tupeni Baba and Krishna Dutt. But Ratu Inoke was quite incensed and refused further meetings with the FLP Leader.

I found it dismaying that an attempt by a USP academic to build political peace in Fiji by trying to get the opposing political sides to form a Government of National Unity was thought by USP management to be a “political” exercise, deserving of rebuke.

Postscript 1

Yet just a few years later, all Fiji was recognizing the work of “interlocutors” Sitiveni Halapua (head of Hawaian academic institution PIDP) and Robin Nair, and later again, Sir Paul Reeves, who were similarly trying to bring Bainimarama together with Qarase. But strangely, peace-building by USP academics was not allowed

Postscript 2

After the 2006 elections, Mahendra Chaudhry allowed some of his MPs to join the multi-party (SDL and FLP) Government of Qarase but Chaudhry himself refused to join.  Instead he tried to become the Leader of the Opposition while his MPs were also part of the Qarase multi-party government.

Soon after, the President of the FLP (Jackie Koroi) was telling the Fiji media that Bainimarama should do a coup on the Qarase Government, which he did. Soon after, Mahendra Chaudhry and some of his FLP colleagues, quickly joined the Bainimarama Government as Minister of Finance. One can guess the kinds of logic that underlies the political “game plans” of this wily politician, who has been a key player in bringing Fiji to where it is today.

 

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