29 Jul 2003

Fiji's labour party now says it is entitled to 17 seats in the new expanded cabinet

10:26 am on 29 July 2003

The Fiji Labour Party says it is constitutionally entitled to have 17 positions if the prime minister insists on having an expanded 36 member multi-party cabinet.

Laisenia Qarase has offered Labour 14 portolios and insists on retaining all his ministers from minority parties and independents, saying they are the foundation of his political platform and stability in the country.

The labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says the rules for the division of seats between eligible parties are clearly laid down in the constitution and are designed to stop a prime minister from stacking his side with people who are not entitled to be in cabinet.

Fiji TV says Mr Chaudhry and Mr Qarase met briefly yesterday before the prime minister left for Tahiti to meet French President, Jaques Chirac.

All issues on the multi-party cabinet have been put on hold until his return, but the division of numbers could end up in the courts for adjudication.

Meanwhile, Fiji's biggest aid donor, the European Union, says tens of millions of dollars in new assistance will remain suspended until the Supreme Court decision on the multi-party cabinet is fully implemented.