14 May 2004

Fiji Labour Party playing sugar politics

10:38 am on 14 May 2004

The Fiji Labour Party has refused to take part in the parliamentary sugar select committee set up to rescue the country's ailing sugar industry.

The committee was agreed to during "talanoa" talks two weeks ago with both Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry signing a joint statement saying their discussions were "based on the principles of reconciliation, sincerity, honesty and respect."

The first meeting of the parliamentary select committee on sugar this week was attended only by Mr Qarase and his government side, and the opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, with Labour refusing to appoint any members.

Mr Chaudhry says Labour will not take part unless the party has a say in who are among the eight nominees the minister of agriculture appoints to the Sugar Cane Growers' Council.

The minister has made eight appointments since the legislation was put in place in 1992, but Labour has never made this demand previously.

Mr Chaudhry is also demanding that when the current term of the board of the Fiji Sugar Corporation expires at the end of this month, none of the present members be re-appointed.