11 Feb 2008

Senior Labour Party figure says it was a mistake to join interim Cabinet

11:54 am on 11 February 2008

A senior figure in the Labour party in Fiji has said the inclusion of Labour politicians in the interim Cabinet will lead to its demise.

The outgoing president of the Nadi Branch, Bijay Prasad, said in his farewell speech that he was stepping down after making the mistake of voting in favour of allowing Labour members to join the interim regime.

He said the party's participation in the current regime had widened the racial gap.

Mr Prasad said the moves against the Great Council of Chiefs, the reduction of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to a department of Fijian Affairs, and the overhauling of the Native Land Trust Board had alienated the indigenous population.

Fiji Live says Mr Prasad believes these changes mean the SDL party of the ousted Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, would now dominate any future election.

outgoing Nadi branch president Bijay Prasad said. Prasad made the comments at his farewell event last night held in the West after holding the position for the past ten years. He said he stepped down from the position for a mistake he made at the party's national council meeting held in Ba where he supported the motion allowing members to join the interim regime. "We were vigorously campaigning to gain support of our indigenous brothers and sisters," Prasad said. "With the suspension of the GCC (Great Council of Chiefs), reduction of the Ministry of Fijian Affairs to a department of Fijian Affairs, and the overhauling of the NLTB (Native Land Trust Board) with concurrence of our members in the Cabinet, any hope of winning the indigenous support has evaporated in thin air," he said. . "What in fact we are doing is allowing Mr Qarase (Laisenia) or any other leader of the SDL party to win more than 50 seats in the future general election." Prasad said a lot had happened within the party with some decisions made nearly costing the unity and solidarity of the party. "Sometimes, we made a decision then regretted later, like joining the multi-party cabinet without establishing the ground rules, a mistake that could have badly split the party. We were saved by the December 2006 coup," he said. In response, Chaudhry said the party's involvement in the interim regime was not because it supported nor condoned the coup. He added FLP's involvement with the military regime had been decided at the party's national meeting - to assist in the return of the country to parliamentary democracy. Fijilive