7 Apr 2005

Fiji's jailed minister for lands Lalabalavu resigns

3:21 pm on 7 April 2005

Fiji's jailed minister for lands, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, has resigned.

Radio Legend reports that the resignation has been announced by the prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, following his visit to the minister in Labasa prison yesterday.

Mr Qarase says the resignation is effective from the day of Lalabalavu's conviction and 8-month sentence last Monday.

He says he is deeply grateful to Lalabalavu for voluntarily offering his resignation, a decision he had made well before Mr Qarase called on him yesterday.

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

He says Lalabalavu also pledged his Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua party's strong support for continuing consultations with the ruling SDL to present a united front in next year's general elections.

Mr Qarase will take responsibility for the lands portfolio until he appoints a replacement.

Meanwhile, the president of the Conservative Alliance, Ratu Tanoa Visowaqa, has welcomed the resignation and says Lalabalavu has shown his true leadership qualities by accepting his wrongdoing.

Another party member, Samisoni Tikonisau, says his resignation is a loss.

"Given Ratu Naiqama's standing as a paramount chief in Fiji, and his standing in the party as a parliamentary leader, no doubt to say that he's not a loss is an understatement."

Samisoni Tikonisau

Ratu Tanoa says no immediate steps will be taken to appoint a new leader.

The government senator jailed with Lalabalavu, Ratu Josefa Dimuri, has yet to decide on whether he will resign from the Upper House.