26 Nov 2007

Disquiet in Fiji over plans to put Fijian Affairs under Department of Indigenous Affairs

11:40 am on 26 November 2007

Sharp differences have emerged in Fiji between the deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and the former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, over a key ministerial change.

In the budget handed down last Friday, the interim administration disclosed that the Ministry of Fijian Affairs would be designated the Department of Indigenous Affairs and placed under the prime minister's portfolio.

Mr Qarase has told the Sunday Times the move is shocking, insensitive and disrespectful to the Fijian people and their thinking, culture and tradition.

Mr Qarase says this is another attempt to diminish the role, functions and importance of Fijian institutions and will cause more racial divisions.

But Sitiveni Rabuka says the change will help mobilize indigenous Fijians to become more independent minded.

Mr Rabuka says the rights of the Fijian people are well protected under the constitution and the change is not a sign of disrespect.

In the budget, several other ministries have been merged with others leaving their interim ministers without portfolios.

@@@@ This may be part of the cabinet reshuffle Bainimarama said he would undertake before Dec 01 but he hasn't announced them yet. @@@@