2 Apr 2003

Negotiations begin in Fiji over whether to resume Talanoa talks

4:25 pm on 2 April 2003

Negotiations have begun in Fiji between the ruling SDL party and the Labour party over whether to resume informal talks between the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and Labour's leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.

The discussions, which kicked off this afternoon in Suva, are being facilitated by Dr Sitiveni Halapua of Hawaii's East-West centre.

Dr Halapua had acted as a facilitator for informal talanoa sessions last year but they were abandoned after Mr Chaudhry accused Mr Qarase of using them for his own agenda.

The Labour party's finance spokesperson, Dr Ganesh Chand, says talks began a short time ago.

"A small group from the SDL (that is Qarase's party) and a small group from the Fiji Labour party - they are going to talk over whether the Talanoa process should be resumed and if so then what should be the agenda and what issues ought to be discussed."

The two leaders have been trying to reach common ground over land issues, the constitution and the troubled sugar industry.

The negotiations come as the Labour party continues with its court case against the government over the prime minister's decision to exclude Labour from a multi-party cabinet as required under the constitution.