26 Nov 2003

Labour accuses top ministers of conflict of interest

11:35 am on 26 November 2003

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, and other senior ministers are accused of serious conflicts of interest in office.

The Fiji Times reports that the accusation has been made in parliament by a senior Labour Party MP, Poseci Bune.

They relate to Mr Qarase, the finance minister Ratu Jone Kubuabola, and the commerce minister Tomasi Vuetolovoni being directors of the Duavata Initiative Limited, a company set up to raise funds for their ruling SDL Party.

Mr Bune says their appointments are in breach of the manual of Ministerial Practice and Procedure which requires ministers not to put themselves in positions of conflict interest.

Mr Bune says the prime minister and his colleagues must follow their own rules.

He has also expressed concern about 1.3 million US dollars in the 2004 budget being put at the prime minister's discretion to give out as cash grants under the affirmative action programme for indigenous Fijians.

Mr Bune says no previous Fiji prime minister has had such a large amount of public money to give out at his discretion and has called on Mr Qarase to name the recipients.

As well, Mr Bune has challenged the prime minister to submit the annual report of the Fijian Affairs Ministry which, he says, has not been done for ten past 14 years.