17 Apr 2003

Fiji PM urges Labour leader to accept role of leader of the opposition

10:26 am on 17 April 2003

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says he wants the Labour Party leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, to be opposition leader.

Mr Qarase's comment came just ahead of today's scheduled meeting between the leaders of Fiji's two largest political parties.

It will be the first talks between the two men since Mr Chaudhry broke off the "talanoa" discussions sponsored by the East West Centre about six months ago.

Mr Qarase says Mr Chaudhry will be a very good leader of the opposition and his acceptance will be good for the country.

But Mr Qarase says if the June sitting of the Supreme Court rules that the Labour Party be included in the government, he has plans in place to accomodate that.

Mr Qarase has reiterated his earlier stand that a forced coalition between his SDL and the Labour Party would not work

Fiji's 1997 Constitution says that all parties with more than ten per cent of seats in the House of Representatives are entitled to be part of the government unless they choose to remain out.

The visiting New Zealand foreign minister, Phil Goff, said in Suva this week that he would find it difficult to work under that constitutional procedure