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SUVA, Fiji (Oct. 25, 2002 – Daily Post/FijiLive)---Labor leader Mahendra Chaudhry has turned down an offer by Fiji President Ratu Josefa Iloilo to be appointed as leader of the opposition – for the second time.

Chaudhry earlier in the year had rejected the offer by Iloilo, leaving him with no choice but to appoint lone National Federation Party parliamentarian Prem Singh in the position.

Singh was later dumped after the Court of Appeal stuck to a judgment by the High Court validating ticks below the line.

Labor’s Krishna Prasad was then declared the winner of the Nadi open seat following a recount.

In exercising the powers vested in him under the 1997 Constitution, Iloilo wrote a letter to Chaudhry on Oct. 15, saying while he was aware of the pending court action the Labor Party filed to pursue the case of a multiparty cabinet, he had no doubt that "Mr. Chaudhry will know what to do with the final outcome of that court action."

Chaudhry replied on Oct. 23, declining the appointment and saying that he was unable to accept the position because the Labor Party had exercised its constitutional right to be in government.

Chaudhry wrote that Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was continuing to head an unconstitutional government even after a declaration by the Fiji Court of Appeal to the effect.

The court had ordered to Qarase to include the Labor Party in his cabinet, as it was part of the 1997 constitution.

In his letter to Iloilo, Chaudhry expressed concern at the continuing delay in appointing the Supreme Court to hear Qarase’s appeal.

He said the same court had been assembled twice this year to hear cases of lesser constitutional importance.

Chaudhry suggested to the president that the appointment of an opposition leader be withheld "until such time when the Supreme Court determines the multi-party cabinet case."

"Indeed, of the remaining non-FLP members in the House, no one is qualified to be credibly appointed as Leader of the Opposition."

Chaudhry said the 1997 constitution provided for the opposition leader’s office to remain vacant in certain circumstances and urged the president to exercise this option until the Supreme Court dealt with the prime minister’s appeal.

For additional reports from Fiji’s Daily Post, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Other News Resources/FijiLive.

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