NEW FIJI CABINET TO FACE CONTROVERSIAL BILLS

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, July 9) – Three proposed bills that have split the Fiji Parliament will be presented to a bipartisan Cabinet later this month for the first time.

The Bills, purporting to protect indigenous Fijian rights, are the Customary Fishing Rights (qoliqoli) Bill, Indigenous Claims Tribunal Bill and the controversial Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill.

The latter, in its original draft, proposes amnesty for perpetrators of the 2000 coup.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase confirms he has instructed the Attorney General Qoroniasi Bale to have the three Bills presented in the multi-party Cabinet in its next meeting on July 18.

"The Bills are to be tabled again thereafter in the next session of the Lower House of Representatives from July 31 through to the second week of August," said Qarase.

The Fiji Labour Party, which has nine members in the 24-member Cabinet had proposed that the Bills be deferred to the latter stages of the current multi-party government's five year tenure so the historical merger between the rival parties deals with popular issues first.

Labour, the military, the legal fraternity and civil society organisations are amongst staunch critics of the Bills.

The so-called controversial Bills should provide an acid test for Cabinet given that Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry demands his Labour ministers vote along party lines.

July 10, 2006

Fijilive: www.fijilive.com

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