CHAUDHRY: BLOATED FIJI GOVERNMENT IRRESPONSIBLE

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By Cheerieann Wilson

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, May 24) – Fiji Labor Party cabinet nominees yesterday agreed to accept changes made by Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to ministerial recommendations made by party leader Mahendra Chaudhry. Mr. Chaudhry said party members reached a consensus after a caucus meeting held in parliament.

The meeting started at 11am, the same time Prime Minister Qarase’s nominees were sworn in as ministers at Government House. A Police Tactical Response team entered the Parliament complex about an hour later but left a few minutes afterwards.

Mr. Chaudhry said the meeting was to discuss two options – whether those that were nominated were prepared to accept the changes and whether the Fiji Labor Party should still join the multi-party Cabinet.

"We will do our part and fulfill our obligation," said Mr. Chaudhry. "This is the best form of government Fiji can have and we have decided to accept the changes made by the Prime Minister."

Mr. Chaudhry said Mr. Qarase had tried to appease those that he had disappointed because of ministerial positions that have gone the Fiji Labor Party’s way by increasing the number of Cabinet seats.

"The bloated size of government is an irresponsible decision on their part given the dire straits of the economy and public finances," he said. "I was expecting this to happen. I don’t know about the legality of those ministers being sworn in but, of course, we now know the identity of the senators. All of them as far as I am concerned, are not independent but are part of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, which of course puts a different equation on the make-up of Cabinet.

"If these three can be labeled as Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua senators, that means that the Fiji Labor Party entitlement must also go up. But it is a question of having to put up with a bloated size of cabinet. We don't want to see that we are also acting equally irresponsibly by demanding additional positions when we know that it will be a burden on taxpayers."

Mr. Chaudhry said he would remain in the Opposition but added that whether he could remain as leader of the Opposition needed legal clarification.

On whether his ministerial appointments would vote in line with the Government on Bills that related to land, fishing rights and the Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, Mr. Chaudhry said "they know what to do when that time comes".

"Fiji’s biggest problem now is a declining economy, abuse and corruption," he said. "If we do not take this new direction, we’ll be in even more serious trouble." The nine ministers from the Fiji Labor Party will be sworn in at 11am today.

May 24, 2006

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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