22 Nov 2006

Fiji PM tells four Labour ministers to resign or be sacked

7:36 pm on 22 November 2006

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says he expects the four Labour Party cabinet ministers who voted against the government's 2007 budget to resign immediately.

Mr Qarase says if they do not resign shortly, he will advise President Iloilo to dismiss them.

The budget has been passed with 40 votes in favour, 26 against and 5 MPs absent from the House.

The opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, and his deputy, Bernadette Rounds Ganilau, voted for the budget even though they had strongly criticized it in the House.

The four Labour Party ministers who voted against the budget were Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi, Chetanya Lakshman, Ragho Nand and Udit Narayan.

Of the other five Labour Party ministers, three - Krishna Datt, Adi Sivia Qoro and Poseci Bune, were overseas while two - Gyani Nand and Dr Gunasegaran Gounder - are hospitalised.

The four who voted against say they will not resign.

They say they have done nothing wrong because there are no established ground rules for the functioning of the multi-party cabinet.

Mr Qarase says he will ask the FLP to provide replacements for any ministers from the party who are dismissed.

But the Labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, had said earlier that if ministers who voted against the budget were dismissed, the multi-party cabinet would go with them.