GOD CHOSE ME, SAYS FIJI PM QARASE

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 21, 2002 – Fiji Sun/Pasifik Nius)---Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase told Parliament last night that he believed God ended the term of the Labour-led Peoples Coalition Government in 2000, the Fiji Sun reports.

Qarase was contributing to a debate on a motion by Labour MP Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi asking Parliament to approve a judicial inquiry into the F$ 25 million (US$ 11,272,500) agriculture assistance scam. The motion was later defeated by six votes.

Qarase said his government was in power because it was the will of God.

Denouncing the statement, the Sun said in an editorial: "We thought that we had gone past those days when our leaders would harp about how they were chosen by God and that justified all they did."

The newspaper appeared to be referring to a claim, also in God's name, by Sitiveni Rabuka after the first coup in May 1987.

"Politicians should stick with politics and never mix their arguments with religion," the Sun said.

The newspaper said that Qarase's comments implied that it was right to carry out coups and mismanage public money.

Qarase told Parliament: "The SDL coalition won because it was God's plan.

"The events of May 2000 happened because of God's plan.

"I believe God wanted to terminate that government.

"The same thing will happen to us if we don't follow God's plan."

Qarase strongly rejected accusations by the Fiji Labour Party that his Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party had implemented the agricultural assistance scheme to buy votes during the general election.

He said when the SDL party was formed in May 2000, no member of the interim government that were in his party intended to stand in a general election.

The SDL leader said the party spent F$ 260,000 (US$ 117,234) campaigning last year and "not one cent came from this agricultural scheme."

He said party supporters and candidates had contributed to the party's campaign.

Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry had earlier highlighted the numerous occasions on which government members invoked Bible verses while contributing to the debate, saying "the Devil can also quote from the Bible."

Labour MP Dr. Ganesh Chand also highlighted the "constant invocation of the Bible to defend corruption," saying no religion would condone the abuse of public funds.

This was tantamount to blasphemy, Dr. Chand said.

 

FIJI PM QARASE LASHES OUT AT THE MEDIA

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 16, 2002 – FijiTV/Fiji Times/Pacific Media Watch)---Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has attacked the country's news media, claiming that it did not report "in depth" his statements on the controversial issue of power sharing in the Cabinet, according to news reports.

Both the Fiji Times on May 16, 2002 and Fiji Television on its national news the previous evening highlighted Qarase's attack on the media, particularly over Fiji TV's report on speculation on a possible snap election to break the country's political impasse.

The Fiji Times reported that Qarase said he had stressed his explanation of the issue at last week's annual congress of the Fiji Institute of Accountants, but this resulted in a "peculiar journalistic display where the editorial writer put out a contradictory statement."

"I have a right to expect that the media are well-informed and professional," Qarase said in Parliament.

The Prime Minister dedicated three pages of his speech to scrutinizing Fiji TV, labeling it as the "eager beavers famous for its bias and spin."

"Impartiality and objectivity seem to be out of fashion at Fiji One, especially when it comes to the business of government," he said.

"Many people in the community have the same feeling. The credibility of the reporting of Fiji One is a real issue," Qarase said.

He claimed the evening bulletin on May 12 was an example of misreporting and distortion because it contained statements and words that were "never said" and indicated prejudice against government.

"On Monday, a TV reporter bailed me up outside Parliament and asked me some poorly informed simplistic questions about whether I would work with [Labour leader] Chaudhry and a possible general election," he said.

"TV One is obviously trying to drum up speculation and comment to fit in with their need for a story for the bulletin. That is a well-known journalistic device."

The Fiji Times reported: "Passing himself off as open and responsive with the media, Mr. Qarase said [Fiji] TV One news reporters had either read or decided to ignore the detailed statement he made at the congress meeting."

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