23 Jun 2006

Fiji attorney general surprised at affirmative action criticism

4:03 pm on 23 June 2006

A key member of the Fiji government says he has no idea why its affirmative action programmes for indigenous Fijians are being criticised.

The Attorney General, Qoriniasi Bale, made the comment following the release of a damning Human Rights Commission report which says they are race-based and unconstitutional.

Complaints from the Fiji Labour Party, the Citizens Constitutional Forum and the Fiji Teachers Union prompted the commission to investigate the schemes.

Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry is threatening to pull his MPs out of the multi-party cabinet unless all racial discrimination is removed from the programmes.

Mr Bale claims however that he knows little about it.

"It would be premature for me to talk about it. We don't even understand, I don't, as principle legal adviser, I still don't know what they're complaining about."

The Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, has said the government will review the programmes, as mentioned in the president's opening address in parliament over two weeks ago.