Mahendra Chaudhry, despite repeatedly claiming he would accept no post, has been sworn in as Minister of Finance, Sugar Reform and National Planning in the newly appointed Fijian government.
Effectively he will be the most powerful man, in Fiji. This is an ironic comeback for a former Prime Minister, twice serving in governments ousted by coups.
If true, why would the left want Mahendra Chaudhry in power?
Fiji was targeted by the Soviets and their allies for decades. This accelerated after Fiji became independent in 1970. Although Fiji has never had a formal communist party, Marxist influence was (and is) very strong at the Suva based, University of the South Pacific.
From there it spread to the trade union movement, many of whose activists became involved in Soviet front activities.
These people were supported by Australian and NZ leftists such as John Halfpenny (Communist Party of Australia/Australian Labor Party) and Ken Douglas (NZ Socialist Unity Party)
In 1980 Halfpenny, Douglas and Jim Knox, President of the New Zealand Federation of Labor, formed the Pacific Trade Union Community. The PTUC was more active in promoting anti-nuclear policies than in promoting trade unionism. At its May 1986 conference in NZ, the PTUC declared it would coordinate union activities to promote a “nuclear free Pacific” and “national liberation and 22 independence” movements.
Halfpenny and Knox were also closely affiliated with the Fiji Labour Party, which was founded and led by medical doctor and unionist, Timoci Bavadra, in June 1985.
Mahendra Chaudhry was key founder of the Labour Party, with Bavadra, while serving as general secretary of the National Farmers Union.
Chaudhry had been a unionist since the early ’60s, and had a reputation as a militant. In 1963, he became Secretary General of the Fiji Public Service Association, and led Fiji’s first-ever civil service strike the same year.
Later he headed the Fiji Trade Union Congress.
The FLP worked to end Fiji’s pro-Western foreign policy, moving to nonalignment, anti-nuclearism and closer ties with Moscow.
FLP leaders Chaudhry and Krishna Datt attended the October 1986 World Federation of Trade Unions Congress in East Berlin.
WFTU was the Soviet Union’s key Labour front. Allegedly, Datt and some other FLP members also travelled to Moscow around that time, possibly in conjunction with the East Berlin trip.
Bavadra and Chaudhry talked openly of allowing the Soviets to open an embassy in Suva, but shelved the idea before the 1987 election.
Chaudhry was elected to Parliament in April 1987 and was appointed Minister for Finance in the coalition government of FLP leader, Timoci Bavadra. His term lasted barely a month. On the 14th May, Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Rabuka deposed the government in the first of two military coups.
Chaudhry remained active in the Labour Party and in 1991 succeeded as leader, Adi Kuini Bavadra, widow of Dr Bavadra.
In May 1999, Chaudhry defeated Sitiveni Rabuka at the polls and became Fiji’s first Indo-Fijian Prime Minister.
In February 1998 the Chinese Minister of Defence had led a 13-member delegation on a two-day visit to Fiji. The talks concluded with professed agreement on “common interests in regional and international affairs”
In December 1999, Prime Minister Chaudhry, visited Beijing where China/Fiji relations, including military cooperation was discussed.
According to the Peoples Daily Online
Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji said December 14 that the Chinese Government is ready to make concerted efforts with the Fijian Government to usher in stable Sino-Fijian relations of all-round cooperation in the next century on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.
Zhu made the remark during talks with visiting Fijian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry at the Great Hall of the People.
Chaudhry said that Fiji-China relations have witnessed significant developments since the two countries established diplomatic ties. He emphasized that Fiji recognizes the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China as outlined in the Fiji-China joint communique in establishing diplomatic ties. Chaudhry said that this position will not change.
Zhu expressed appreciation for the Fijian government’s adherence to the “one China” stand.
Following the talks, the two leaders attended a ceremony for the signing of an agreement on economic and technological cooperation between the two countries and a memorandum of understanding on setting up a consultation system between the Chinese and Fijian foreign ministries.
In May 2000, Chaudhry and most of his Cabinet were taken hostage in a coup by the Fijian “nationalist” and businessman, George Speight.
Chaudhry’s government was then sacked by President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara on May 27. Mara’s intention was to assume emergency powers himself but was instead deposed by military leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama. After 56 days in captivity, Chaudhry was released and subsequently toured the world attempting to rally support for his deposed government.
Most countries didn’t want to know, but Chaudhry did get some sympathy from the .
The protection of democratic institutions was also high on the agenda when the SI Asia-Pacific Committee met in Wellington, New Zealand, on 7-8 August 2000, hosted by the New Zealand Labour Party, NZLP, and its leader Prime Minister Helen Clark.
Delegates from throughout this vast region denounced the violent overthrow of the democratically elected, multi-ethnic government of Fiji headed by Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, leader of the SI member Fiji Labour Party. This followed on the statement by our International issued after the coup on 19 May, which condemned the assault on the lawful government of the country and called for the release of all hostages.
Thankfully, Prime Minister Chaudhry survived a prolonged and strenuous ordeal and was able to participate in the meeting in Wellington, where he joined the Committee in calling for international action to restore democracy in Fiji.
It is worth noting that the Socialist International has changed considerably in the last 20 years. Once staunchly anti-communist, the SI, since the “fall of communism” now works closely with many “former” and current communist parties.
The SI, particularly in Latin America and the third world, is now effectively an ally of the communist movement.
Participants at the Wellington SI meeting chaired by Helen Clark, included the;
Mongolian People’s Party (“former” communist)
The Cambodian People’s Party (communist)
NZ trade unionist, Ken Douglas (“former” communist)
Several members of the Fiji Labour Party (crypto-communist), including Krishna Datt Two leftist leaders of the Fiji Trades Congress.
In October 2004, Chaudhry represented the FLP at a meeting of the Socialist International’s
The Cambodian People’s Party
Italian Democrats of the Left (“former” communist)
Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party
East Timor’s Fretilin (“Former” communist)
Communist Party of China.
When when fresh elections were held in 2001, Chaudhry’s FLP was defeated by Laisenia Qarase’s Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua.
In the 2006 general election, Chaudhry’s FLP formed an electoral alliance with the Party of National Unity and the United Peoples Party but was still unable to unseat the Qarase Government.
However, after some legal maneuvering, Qarase was forced to form a coalition government, which Chaudhry and the FLP were invited to join. Chaudhry’s decision to join the multi-party cabinet (although Chaudhry himself did not take a post), caused considerable friction in the FLP.
In October 2006, Chaudhry, at the invitation of the Communist Party of China, led a delegation of senior FLP members to Beijing.
Liu Qi, secretary of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China ,met with Mahendra Pal Chaudhry, leader of the opposition party and former prime minister of Fiji, and his Labor Party delegation here Tuesday.
Liu, also a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, expressed his appreciation for Fiji’s adherence to one-China policy.
The CPC attaches close importance to the relations with the Fijian Labour Party and hopes to strengthen dialogues and exchanges between the two parties, he said.
Chaudhry said the Fijian Labour Party will continue to adhere to one-China policy.
Interestingly, the Qarase government had got offside with Beijing in 2005;
According to blog China Matters
However, China had its problems with the Qarase government, which afforded Taiwan’s Chen Shuibian the opportunity to pay an unofficial visit spring 2005 that included a friendly greeting at the airport, meetings with the Fijian Vice President and other bigwigs, and apparently, an unannounced meeting with Qarase.
Although Bainimarama visited China at the PLA’s invitation, and there is no love lost between Beijing and Qarase after the Chen Shui-bian stunt, …
Within three months, the Qarase government had been ousted by the pro-Chaudhry, commodore Bainimarama.
It will be interesting to see where Mahendra Chaudhry and Bainimarama next lead Fiji.