16 Aug 2005

Fiji PM rules out talanoa talks on critical issues

8:36 am on 16 August 2005

Fiji's prime minister has ruled out any more "talanoa" talks with the Labour Party on critical issues.

Radio Legend reports that Laisenia Qarase's response follows a call by the Labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, for the government to withdraw its Reconciliation and Unity Bill and refer it for discussion in the "talanoa" talks outside parliament.

The informal talanoa talks were first mediated by the director of the East West Centre in Hawaii, Dr Sitiveni Halapoa, and aimed at initiating dialogue between Labour and the ruling SDL on important issues such as land and constitutional changes.

Mr Qarase says two years of talanoa talks on these two issues have reached nowhere and there is no point in referring the Reconciliation and Unity Bill to the talanoa talks because they have failed.

Mr Qarase says Labour should be using parliament's Justice, Law and Order committee, which is considering submissions on the Bill, to make its views known.

But Mr Chaudhry says the Bill has already been drafted and tabled in parliament and consultations should have taken place well before any such measures were taken.

As well, Mr Chaudhry says a few weeks before the Bill was tabled in parliament, Mr Qarase had denied that any such legislation was under preparation.

But Mr Qarase says Labour must put aside any pre-conditions if it wants to participate in the debate.