21 May 2005

Fiji PM accused of arrogance for not consulting Labour on Reconciliation Bill

8:35 am on 21 May 2005

Fiji's Opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, has accused the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase of arrogance over his statement that the government doesn't need to consult other parties over its Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

Mr Chaudhry says Fiji had made a mistake when it permitted immunity for the perpetrators of the 1987 coup, which he says allowed a coup culture to develop.

Mr Chaudhry says Mr Qarase had snubbed even the Great Council of Chiefs in drafting the Bill but he mustn't ignore public condemnation.

But Mr Qarase says the Bill reflected the government's thinking and was introduced because the Labour Party had

rejected invitations to take part in reconciliation programmes.

Meanwhile, the 1987 coup leader and former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, has warned that Fiji could face another coup if the Reconciliation and Unity Bill is not passed.

The Bill will set up a commission with powers to fast track amnesty for coup convicts like George Speight, erase their criminal records, give immunity to those not yet prosecuted and suspend court proceedings against those facing charges.