26 Aug 2003

Talks on Fiji's multi-party cabinet to end on Friday

9:56 am on 26 August 2003

The Fiji Labour Party's talks with the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase on a multi-party cabinet will conclude on Friday.

The Labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says they already have an agreement on the Friday deadline, and he does not understand why Mr Qarase last week issued a 48 hour ultimatum.

But the issue is likely to end up back in the Supreme Court for a ruling because of a dispute about the number of seats Labour should have in a multi-party cabinet.

Mr Qarase is adamant that Labour should have 14 seats in an expanded 36 member cabinet.

But Mr Chaudhry says according to the rules quite clearly laid down in the constitution, the SDL should have 53 per cent of the seats in the cabinet and Labour 47 per cent, whatever its size.

Mr Chaudhry says if Mr Qarase wants to retain members of minor parties and independents in his cabinet, those seats should come from the SDL's share.

He also says there is no point in giving Mr Qarase 25 names to choose from because the prime minister has already told him in writing that he does not want Dr Ganesh Chand and Poseci Bune in his cabinet, leaving only 25 Labour MPs in parliament.