30 Aug 2003

Fiji PM excludes Labour leader from multi-party cabinet

9:09 am on 30 August 2003

Fiji's prime minister, Laisnia Qarase, says he has left Mahendra Chaudhry out of his multi-party cabinet because the Labour leader cannot be trusted.

The Fiji Sun quotes Mr Qarase as saying he can only work with people he can trust.

He says Mr Chaudhry has demonstrated by his actions in the country and abroad, including at the Pacific Forum summit in Auckland last month where he called for regional intervention in Fiji, that he is a person who cannot be trusted.

Mr Qarase has named 14 mostly relatively junior Labour MPs to be part of the multi-party cabinet.

He says he has selected those who he is confident will work in close co-operation with his current ministers in furthering the collective interest of all communities in Fiji.

Labour's claim that it is entitled to seventeen seats in an expanded 36 member cabinet will be referred to the Supreme Court for determination.

Mr Qarase has given Labour MPs until September 10th to accept the offers he has made so he can appoint them to cabinet as soon as possible.

But Mr Chaudhry says they will wait until the Supreme Court ruling because the new, expanded cabinet with 14 Labour members will still be unconstitutional.

Labour's decision to join the multi-party cabinet means it has accepted portfolios Mr Chaudhry had repeatedly described as minor and a joke.

Fiji is also likely to have a 36 member cabinet which will comprise more than half of the MPs in the House of Representatives and only a two member opposition.