It was a day of high drama and a day of missed opportunity. The interim government shied away from the opportunity, some might say the duty, to dismiss interim finance minister Mahendry Chaudhry while Mr Chaudhry ignored his own opportunity to resign in the public interest. Had Mr Chaudhry gone yesterday, as this newspaper said he should, his Fiji Labour Party colleagues in the cabinet would have gone also. Now, setting all personalities aside, a chance to remove the widespread perception of party political bias in the interim government has gone begging. More importantly, perhaps, the parallel opportunity to once and for all wash away the taint of political bias in the National Council for Building a Better Fiji has also been lost. This will only serve to further reduce support for the interim government and the NCBBF both of which are increasingly perceived to be overly influenced by the electoral and political interests of the Fiji Labour Party. It also dramatically lengthens the odds against the early election the nation so keenly desires, given Mr Chaudhry’s plainly expressed determination to have the next election contested under the rules of the People’s Charter rather than the 1997 constitution for which he voted and which remains the supreme law. Predictably, a clearly confident Mr Chaudhry yesterday blamed the media. It was the media both domestic and foreign that sought to undermine him by starting false rumours of his dismissal, he said, despite the fact that he must certainly know by now that this is quite untrue. In fact the “rumours” originated much closer to home. In any case the media did not lie to parliament. The media did not seek to avoid tax on secret overseas bank accounts. The media did not bungle through sheer vindictiveness the negotiations over the potentially disastrous bus strike which required the last minute intervention of Commodore Bainimarama. And the media did not put at risk more than $200 million in bottled water exports – a risk that also required last minute intervention by the interim attorney general to keep 1000 people at work. Ministers worldwide have been sacked – or have resigned – for much less. Yet Mahendra Chaudhry remains untouchable. The nation can be forgiven for wondering why that should be so. And in the absence of any convincing explanation, people are left to draw their own conclusions. And how any minister can endure the humiliation of having matters that fall within his or her portfolio decided by others passes all understanding. The only honourable option open to Mr Chaudhry now is to resign. And if his cabinet colleagues and the military council cannot bring him to an understanding of that he should be sacked.
Fiji Sun Editorial Today 25/07/08