19 Jun 2006

Rebel Fiji Cabinet Minister promises to continue speaking out

8:08 pm on 19 June 2006

The rebel Labour Party minister in Fiji's multi-party cabinet, Lekh Ram Vyashnoi, looks set to defy the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, with the backing of the Labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Mr Qarase has told Radio Legend that he had a cordial discussion with Mr Vyashnoi which focused on cabinet rules and procedures.

Mr Qarase says there is no reason to discipline Mr Vyashnoi as he believes all ministers now have a good understanding of the rules that guide cabinet.

But Mr Vyashnoi says he will continue to speak out against government policies if he sees it fit.

Mr Vyashnoi says the prime minister did not outline any procedures but expressed only his "sentiments" about collective responsibility.

Mr Vyashnoi says he has asked the prime minister to revise the cabinet code of conduct to allow Labour Party cabinet ministers to speak their minds in parliament.

He says the current cabinet manual is outdated and should be revised to provide for the new era of a multi-party cabinet.

The FLP leader, Mahendra Chaudhry has backed Mr Vyashnoi's criticism of government policies, saying he was only speaking out about issues which are against the 1997 Constitution.

Mr Chaudhry says "the government's affirmative action programme offends the constitution and must be reviewed."