10 Aug 2006

Fiji Labour Party caucus holds emergency session over tabling of two government bills

10:10 am on 10 August 2006

The Fiji Labour Party caucus will meet today in an emergency session in which withdrawal from the multi-party cabinet will be an option.

Fiji TV reports that this follows the ruling SDL party's tabling of the Qoliqoli or Traditional Fishing Grounds Bill and the Land Claims Tribunal Bill, both of which Labour had wanted deferred for further consultation.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says the Qoliqoli Bill was out with the public for wide consultations and there will be another opportunity when it goes before parliament's relevant sector committee.

But the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says sector committees do not absolve the SDL from holding inter-party talks.

Mr Chaudhry says the tabling of the two controversial bills is "a carefully contrived strategy on the prime minister's part to derail the multi-party cabinet."

But Mr Qarase says it is well known that "Mr Chaudhry was not too keen on the multi-party cabinet arrangements" and he would not be surprised if he (Mr Chaudhry) "makes every attempt to wriggle out of it."

Mr Qarase says the decision to table to the two bills was by consensus in the cabinet which includes 9 Labour Party ministers.