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Mahendra Chaudhry
"Happy to be set free"
 real 28k

Thursday, 13 July, 2000, 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Chaudhry fears for Fiji's future
Supporters outside Mr Chaudhry's home
Supporters welcome the former prime minister home
Deposed Fijian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry has described the situation in the country as alarming with many people suffering.

Mr Chaudhry, who was speaking shortly after being released from the parliament building in the capital Suva along with 17 colleagues, said if Fiji was to have a future, everyone had to work together to get the country back on its feet.

But he said he bore no animosity to those who held him captive for 56 days.

The hostage takers, led by the businessmen George Speight, were demanding more power for indigenous Fijians at the expense of ethnic Indians.


There were some anxious moments ... it was not easy for me or my son

Mahendra Chaudhry
After undergoing health checks, Mr Chaudhry, who is an ethnic Indian, said he expected to continue having a leadership role but it would be up to the people to decide in what capacity.

In recent days, civil unrest has gripped the country, which has seen landowners take over several tourist resorts and the crippling of Fiji's tourism and sugar-based economy.

On Thursday morning, the hostages were driven away from the parliamentary compound, in a low-key end to what had been tense stand-off between the army and the rebels.

Captors tearfully hugged captives and, in a traditional ceremony seeking forgiveness, the rebels offered a bowl of kava, a mildly narcotic drink, to the 18 legislators they had held.

Forgiveness

Looking thin and describing himself as feeling a little tired, the 58-year-old returned home to cheering supporters bearing placards reading "We love you" and "Welcome".

The former prime minister is reunited with his family
It's over... Chaudhry is reunited with his wife and granddaughter
Asked by a reporter how Mr Chaudhry, who defied Fiji's ethnic divide to become the country's first ethnic-Indian prime minister, felt about being deposed, the crowd chanted: "He is prime minister."

Asked whether he still considered himself prime minister, Mr Chaudhry said: "That's for the people to decide. I've been in politics a long time."

'Anxious moments'

"I think I have a vision for Fiji," the former prime minister said. "Unfortunately, we were unable to fulfil that, we were deposed after 12 months, but I'll continue to work for Fiji."

Mr Chaudhry said he and his fellow hostages, which included his son, experienced some anxious moments during their captivity in the sprawling parliamentary complex.

"We used to play, we used to read and we used to take one day at a time," he said.

"There were some anxious moments. I don't think I will elaborate on that now, maybe later on. It was not easy for me or my son."

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See also:

12 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Future bleak for Fiji's Indians
12 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji rebels free nine hostages
10 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Rioting follows Fiji peace deal
10 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Speight signs Fiji peace deal
04 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Tall order for Fiji's new PM
08 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
More Fiji hostages seized
28 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji rebels reject military rule
07 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Speight's hold over Fiji
19 May 00 | Asia-Pacific
Ethnic split haunts Fijian politics
05 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Speight's demands
12 Jul 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fiji hostages tell of ordeal
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