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Fiji Sun calls on Qarase to abide by law

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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): The Fiji Sun today called on Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to abide by the law in mixed reaction by the nation's press to an Appeal Court ruling that the deposed Labour government was entitled to be in cabinet.

"The waiting is over. It is acceptance time now," said the Sun in an editorial.

"And quite frankly, Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and his government, we feel, have no other choice but to state quite clearly that they will abide by whatever decision of the High Court."

The paper said an appeal to the Supreme Court might be an option but suggested it was an "opportune time to consider the costs of such a decision".

"Already, taxpayers of this country had to meet the cost of this case in the Court of Appeal," the Sun said.

The paper said that instead of exploring the appeal options, "time may be better spent considering how best to invite the Fiji Labour Party into cabinet".

"We have said it all along. There is no harm in trying."

In an unanimous decision yesterday, the five Appeal Court judges ruled that Qarase had breached the power-sharing provisions of the constitution when he opted to exclude the FLP from his cabinet.

The prime minister was also in breach of the constitution when he did not consult Labour party leader Mahendra Chaudhry in selecting members for inclusion in the cabinet.

Labour was entitled to a number of cabinet seats in proportion to its 38 percent share in Parliament.

Labour won 27 seats in last year's general election, but has since won an additional seat in an electoral court ruling.

Qarase's Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party won 32 seats and is governing in a coalition with coup leader George Speight's Conservative Alliance (six seats) and independents.

Chaudhry's Labour-led coalition government was ousted in an attempted coup on 19 May 2000 and held hostage in Parliament for 56 days.

Acting Appeal Court president Justice Sir Thomas Eichelbaum said his court was only asked by the High Court to answer specific questions of law.

He said it would be up to the High Court to decide other related issues and to make a ruling. The High Court would also decide on costs.

The Daily Post said that the SDL and Labour must "come together for the sake of the whole country".

"That could be a tough and difficult thing to do," said the paper.

"But it can be done. If the SDL can work with the Conservative Alliance, there's no reason why it can't work with the Fiji Labour Party."

The Fiji Times said that Qarase's decision not to include Labour in his cabinet now looked like a "tactical error".

"All options are fraught with danger. The stability of the nation is at risk," the paper said.

"Perhaps the best outcome for the country would be for Mr Chaudhry to note the court's decision, stay out of cabinet and bide his time."


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