18 Sep 2003

Fiji PM says Supreme Court will decide Labour numbers in a multi-racial cabinet

9:36 am on 18 September 2003

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says the Fiji Labour Party's claim to 17 seats in a 36 member cabinet will be decided by the Supreme Court.

In a broadcast last night, Mr Qarase said his offer of 14 cabinet positions to Labour is constitutionally correct according to their proportion of seats in parliament, but he has asked the president to let the Supreme Court decide.

The prime minister accused the Labour Party of doing everything it could to frustrate the formation of a multi-party cabinet by constantly raising new issues and shifting the goalposts.

As well, he said, Mr Chaudhry has consistently refused to provide him with a list of names from which to choose ministers for inclusion in a multi-party cabinet.

Mr Qarase says this was why he offered portfolios to 14 Labour MPs who refused to accept them, saying Mr Chaudhry would make the decision on who enters the cabinet.

Mr Qarase says it is the prime minister's constitutional responsibility to determine the size of cabinet, choose ministers and assign portfolios, and he will not create a precedent by surrendering those powers.

Mr Qarase has challenged Labour to give an assurance that it will join the cabinet as soon as the Supreme Court has ruled, and that they will accept and respect the authority of the prime minister as head of cabinet and of the government.


Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase