20 Jun 2005

Fiji PM chides former Australian diplomat over bill comment

1:43 pm on 20 June 2005

Fiji's prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, says it is irresponsible of the former Australian high commissioner in Suva, Susan Boyd, to make statements about the government's Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

The Fiji Times reports that Ms Boyd told the ABC's Asia-Pacific programme at the weekend that the military sees itself as the guardian of Fiji's sovereignty.

Ms Boyd said the military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, had always expressed himself if he thought the government was going off the rails and it was his job to restore the situation as he did after the Speight coup.

Ms Boyd said Commodore Bainimarama is very concerned about the wholesale dismantling of a justice system which legislation like the Reconciliation and Unity Bill might be seen to embody.

But Mr Qarase is quoted as saying it is irresponsible of visitors to make such comments because the majority of the indigenous Fijian population and Christians support the Bill.

Meanwhile, the government's coalition partner, the Conservative Alliance, says genuine reconciliation can only be achieved if the coup perpetrators are released and that is the reason most indigenous Fijians support the Bill.