26 May 2006

Fiji Labour leader says he can choose opposition role

1:09 pm on 26 May 2006

Fiji's Labour Party leader says there's nothing in the constitution to stop him from becoming the leader of the Opposition.

Mahendra Chaudhry made the comment amid debate over who is in the opposition and who will be opposition leader.

The prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, has said his understanding of the law is that with Labour now part of the cabinet, its backbenchers and their leader would be part of the government.

However, Mr Chaudhry says the law allows him and his backbenchers to form an opposition.

"The constitution is silent on that and the choice is left to the elected representatives, no-one can force them into a particular situation. If they want to remain in the Opposition they can remain in the Opposition. There is no legal requirement as far as I'm concerned."

The Korolevu Declaration - signed after the 1997 Consitution came into force - says that any party which joins a multi-party cabinet cannot be part of the opposition.

But Mr Chaudhry says that agreement was rejected by Mr Qarase in 2001 when he didn't let Labour into the multi-party cabinet.