20 Feb 2004

Fiji political party calls for arrest of Mahendra Chaudhry on contempt charges

6:45 am on 20 February 2004

The junior party in Fiji's coalition government, the pro-coup Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua Party, has called for the immediate arrest of the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Commercial radio station, Legend, reports that the call follows Mr Chaudhry's comment that the three coup convicts released on Wednesday had been given lenient sentences.

The radio quotes the party secretary, Senator Ratu Josefa Dimuri, as saying Mr Chaudhry is in contempt of court and has violated a section of the constitution which says that the courts have the power to punish a person for contempt..

The chief executive of the Justice Ministry, Sakiusa Rabuka, says what needs to be done now is for a formal complaint to be filed by a member of the judiciary.

Mr Rabuka says this would allow police to investigate and seek advice from the director of public prosecutions to lay charges if the evidence against Mr Chaudhry is sufficient.

Mr Chaudhry made his comment after the release of the leader of George Speight's gunmen, Illisoni Ligairi, Speight's brother and Australian national Jim Speight, and the former police commissioner's brother, Major Josefa Savua.