22 May 2006

Fiji's plans for a multi party cabinet heading for collapse

7:14 pm on 22 May 2006

The formation of a multi-party cabinet in Fiji is in jeopardy.

The Fiji Labour Party's board is holding an emergency meeting tonight to decide whether it will withdraw from the multi-party cabinet after accepting the prime minister's invitation to join in.

The Labour leader, Mahendra Chaudhry, says the problem stems from Mr Qarase's decision not to accept his recommendations for different portfolios.

In particular, Mr Chaudhry had recommended that his deputy, Poseci Bune, be appointed minister for agriculture, a position he had held in the overthrown coalition government.

But Mr Chaudhry says Mr Qarase has moved Mr Bune to the environment portfolio and shifted his recommendation for environment, Gyani Nand, to agriculture.

Mr Chaudhry has admitted that it is the prime minister's prerogative to allocate cabinet portfolios.

But, he says in the spirit of power sharing in a multi-party cabinet, Mr Qarase should have accepted his recommendations.

Mr Chaudhry has accused Mr Qarase of not negotiating in good faith and of trying to manipulate the process.

Mr Chaudhry says he will inform President Iloilo and Mr Qarase of Labour's decision at the end of the emergency board meeting tonight.

Mr Qarase says he has reshuffled some of Mr Chaudhry's recommendations but has not rejected any of the nominees.

Mr Qarase says it is the prime minister's call to allocate portfolios and hopes Mr Chaudhry will accept this authority.