7 Apr 2005

Acting deputy Speaker replaces jailed Minister in Fiji Cabinet

8:20 pm on 7 April 2005

Fiji's Prime Minister has appointed another member of his coalition partner, the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua, as the new minister for lands.

Manasa Tuqia succeeds Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu who has resigned after being convicted and jailed for 8 months on coup related offences.

Mr Tuqia was appointed the acting deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives earlier this year to replace another jailed Conservative Alliance MP, Ratu Rakuita Vakalabure.

A government statement says Mr Tuqia will be sworn in tomorrow morning by the acting president, Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi.

Earlier, Mr Tuqia was quoted as saying the party was saddened by their leader's imprisonment and resignation but it had been expected.

He said they were encouraged by Lalabalavu's plea for people to remain calm and continue with their normal lives.

The Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, says he is deeply grateful to Ratu Naiqama for voluntarily offering his resignation, a decision he had made well before Mr Qarase called on him on Wednesday.

Mr Qarase says Ratu Naiqama was in high spirits and very particular that the law must be respected.