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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 12) – Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase has again pointed to the excessive consumption of "yaqona" [kava] as the cause of a lot of problems for Fijians.

And he has urged church leaders to start preaching from the pulpits about the effects of excessive kava drinking on youths, church members and government officers. He told the Lau Provincial Council meeting at the Fijian Teachers Association Hall in Suva that the abuse and excessive kava drinking was the cause of a lot of problems in the lives of Fijians.

He said while traveling extensively around the country in the past few years, he saw that kava drinking was abused by villagers, especially young people who were supposed to be the leaders and fathers of tomorrow.

Qarase said there was a trend for youths in villages to drink kava excessively, sometimes not finishing the sessions until the next morning. He said they then slept in the community halls or anywhere, where they would not to be disturbed for the rest of the day.

In an interview after the meeting, he said he had noticed the high consumption of kava among young men and women.

"I am trying to stress a point about some of the bad effects of this problem. It slows the mind, makes people lazy, the physical appearance of a person changes and the young people hardly wake up in the morning to go to the plantation while some do not have a dalo [taro] or cassava plantation at all and it is really sad," he said.

He said excessive kava drinking brought about some of these bad habits.

Qarase said it was sad to see older men instead of the younger ones waking up in the morning and going to the plantation to plant food for the family.

"The youth have become lazy because of yaqona,'' he said.

Qarase also blamed village elders, church leaders and government officials for setting the young people a bad example by encouraging the excessive use of yaqona. He said the elders indulge in excessive kava drinking and young people followed their footsteps.

He said the abuse of kava was being experienced in the various villages across the country, and in the government offices and churches, because there was no control.

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