FIJIAN RIGHTS FIRST: PRIME MINISTER QARASE

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (July 5, 2000 - Fiji Times/PINA Nius Online)---The Compact in the 1997 Constitution will be used as a framework to promote the interests of the Fijian community, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said yesterday.

The Compact requires that in any dealing the interests of indigenous Fijians should remain paramount and must not be subordinated to those of other communities.

Mr. Qarase, sworn in to head an interim civilian cabinet, said the Compact was "the way forward" for the country.

Apart from the review of the Constitution, Mr. Qarase said Cabinet would treat as a priority, "issues which are close to the heart of every Fijian."

These include:

- The removal of native land from the ambit of ALTA;

- The transfer of State Schedule A and B lands to the Native Land Trust Board;

- The conferment of ownership rights over traditional fishing grounds.

But at the same time, Mr. Qarase stressed the new administration recognized and appreciated the contribution of other communities to the development of the country.

He said he was confident members of the Indian community could be persuaded to participate in the governance of the country.

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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