Labour says it is not surprised that a frustrated Baba should try to discredit its Leader Mahendra Chaudhry in his book Speight of Violence.
In a statement issued following the attacks, the Party said it should be remembered that Dr. Baba made a bid for the Labour Party leadership post 2000 coup and lost badly. He then left FLP to set up his own party, the New Labour Unity Party which was badly humiliated at the 2001 polls.
Understandably, Tupeni Baba is a frustrated, embittered person who had always harboured ambitions of taking over leadership of the Labour Party but never had grassroots support to make a successful bid. He ran away from Fiji after the humiliation of his 2001 defeat.
FLP categorically rejects claims by Dr. Baba that Mr. Chaudhry had “seized the leadership of the FLP to become prime minister” in 1999 despite giving assurances that Baba would get the post of prime minister, should Labour win the elections.
The question of “seizing” leadership does not arise as Mr. Chaudhry had been the official and recognised leader of the Fiji Labour Party.
Furthermore, there were no assurances that Baba would take over as prime minister. Mr. Chaudhry has always held the opinion, backed by political convention, that the person who successfully leads the party into elections, takes over as prime minister regardless of his ethnicity.
“I have never subscribed to the view that only an indigenous Fijian is eligible to be prime minister of Fiji. Why would I then give such an assurance to Baba?” Mr. Chaudhry said.
As for the authors’ claims that should FLP win the 2006 elections, there would be another coup as Labour lacks substantial backing from the Fijian community and Fijian institutions, Labour is a multiracial party which has always advocated whatever was in the best interests of the indigenous community.
There has been a lot of anti-Labour propaganda in this regard just to justify the terrorist overthrow of the People’s Coalition Government in 2000 by opportunists and disgruntled politicians backed by people with vested interests.
It is now well recognised by the people of Fiji and elsewhere that the 2000 coup had nothing to do with indigenous rights.
The Fiji Labour Party regards what has happened in the past as part of the evolutionary process. It will continue to fight for the principles of social justice, equality and human rights that it has always advocated.
“We are very happy with the support we are receiving from the indigenous Fijian community in the lead up to the 2006 general elections. Indeed, FLP’s 2006 line up will include some very prominent Fijians,” Mr. Chaudhry said in reply to the critics.
“We know why all this controversy is being stirred up now. It is a gimmick by the authors to try and sell their book,” he said.