15 Aug 2005

Fiji's opposition in favour of talanoa talks with PM on Reconciliation Bill

1:49 pm on 15 August 2005

Fiji's opposition leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, has offered to hold talks with the prime minister on the government's highly controversial Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

But Mr Chaudhry says any such talks can only be held at informal talks, such as a talanoa session, as was the case with other important issues such as land and sugar.

The informal talanoa talks were mediated by the director of the Hawaii-based East-West Centre, Dr Sitiveni Halapua.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, last week invited the Labour Party to join parliament's Justice, Law and Order committee which is reviewing the Bill.

But Mr Chaudhry says before any talks can take place, Mr Qarase must withdraw the Bill which, he says, was secretly drafted by a law firm in Melbourne.

Mr Chaudhry says Mr Qarase deliberately misled the nation when he first denied that the government was drafting legislation which would allow amnesty for the perpetrators of the 2000 coup.

He says Mr Qarase should be genuine in his invitation and not play games as he did over the multi-party cabinet issue.