23 Mar 2006

Fiji's prime minister says MPs convicted of coup should remain

10:37 am on 23 March 2006

Fiji's prime minister says all his MPs who were convicted of coup related offences have the constitutional right to be in parliament and hold ministerial posts.

Laisenia Qarase has told Radio Legend that the military and the opposition parties should understand that the constitution is very clear on whether some of his ministers can still hold their cabinet positions.

Mr Qarase says comments by the military that the SDL has given in to coup supporters are misleading because coup convicts sentenced to less than one year in jail are in his government legally.

He says he does not know what the fuss is all about unless some people want to curtail the rights and freedoms of others.

Mr Qarase also says he is concerned that the military and opposition parties continue to accuse him of ethno-nationalism without understanding the affirmative action programme.

The prime minister says the government has been promoting its affirmative action programme within the provisions of the Social Justice Act in the constitution and the best thing critics can do is to test it out in court.

Mr Qarase says that as a newspaper editorial has pointed out, the military is the worst example of ethno-nationalism because its recruitment is almost entirely indigenous Fijian.