20 Apr 2004

Australian PM says Ratu Mara will be remembered as one of the region's great leaders

3:16 pm on 20 April 2004

The Australian prime minister, John Howard, and his foreign minister, Alexander Downer, are among regional leaders paying tribute to the longtime Fiji prime minister and former president, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Ratu Mara, who has been in frail health for several years, died in his sleep in Suva on Sunday night at the age of 83.

Mr Howard says Ratu Mara was an outstanding representative of the Pacific in the international arena and was very influential in Commonwealth affairs.

The Australian prime minister says Ratu Mara was the founding father of Fiji and will be remembered as one of the region's great leaders.

Mr Downer says Ratu Mara was an important stabilising influence on the domestic political environment in Fiji and committed himself to nurturing national unity between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians.

The Fiji cabinet has met today to establish a subcommittee to oversee the state funeral which will take place next week.