14 Aug 2002

Fiji Labour leader turns down PM's invitation to discuss race relations

10:19 am on 14 August 2002

The Fiji Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, has turned down an invitation from the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, to talk over race relations between parliamentarians.

The Daily post reports the two leaders were due to meet at the Prime Minister's Office today.

It says Mr Chaudhry has blamed Mr Qarase for his decision not to attend the meeting.

Mr Chaudhry says at a reception by the parliamentary Speaker last week, he had suggested to Mr qarase that they meet and talk over racist remarks made by MPs, in an effort to control damage to race relations.

ButMr chaudhry says he was surprised that the very next day, in a ministerial statement, Mr Qarase defended his two ministers who had made racist remarks.

He says there is no purpose at this stage in holding discussions.

Mr Qarase is quoted as saying today's talks would have discussed last weekend's aborted informal Talanoa talks with the Labour Party as well.

The opposition leader, Prem Singh, and the United General Party leader, Mick Beddoes, have both appealed to Mr Qarase and Mr Chaudhry to reconcile their differences and take the country forward.