21 Mar 2006

Fiji's PM denies accusations over taxpayer-funded advertisments

10:10 am on 21 March 2006

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has denied that recent taxpayer-funded advertisements are part of his SDL party's campaign for re-election.

The Fiji Times quotes Mr Qarase as saying the full-page ministerial ads were not electioneering but normal information sharing.

Mr Qarase's comments follow a backlash from former prime ministers over his use of taxpayer funds in the weeks before the general election.

The SVT leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, says the SDL is using loopholes for its political ends and the timing of the advertisements is unethical.

The Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says following the announcement of the election, the government is now a caretaker one and should not be using taxpayer funds for electioneering.

But Mr Qarase has denied the ads are part of his party's campaign, adding that it is the role of the government to inform the public on developments in key sectors.

The chairman of the Electoral Commission, Graham Leung, had earlier expressed regret that political parties had not agreed to a code of conduct.