Chaudhry, Qarase Should Work Together, Says Rabuka
By PETER EMBERSON: September 6, 2001 Wansolwara Online (USP)
SUVA (Pasifik Nius): The time is ripe for United Fiji (SDL) party leader Laisenia Qarase and Fiji Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry to seize the opportunity and work together under the 1997 Constitution, says former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka.
He said President Ratu Josefa Iloilo should consider setting up a minority government if the two major parties were not able to decide upon the coalition to form government.
Rabuka, the 1987 coup leader and prime minster until 1999, said this today in a Fiji Television forum as a solution to the apparent deadlock.
"This was done in 1977 when Ratu Mara was appointed by Governor-General George Cakobau and it was still constitutional," Rabuka said.
Rabuka, who spearheaded the drive to set up the review of the 1990 Constitution, which was widely condemed as racist, said: "They should move quickly to form a grand coalition, then over the next five years they can work closer together so that we can have a great coalition like they have in Singapore."
Rabuka suggested that the opposition could be provided by three smaller partiessuch as the Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua (CAMV) party.
Rabuka said that Qarase's SDL and George Speight's (CAMV) party calls for amendments to the constitution is "ruinous" because inadequate time had been given to realise its full potential.
Even "Chaudhry was rather sceptical during the process of formulating that constitution, even during his presentation when it was debated in Parliament, but it made him Fiji's first Indo-Fijian prime minister," he said.
However, if they tried to moot for changes in the constitution a two thirds majority would be needed in the house to successfully turn the bill.
"Chaudhry will find himself to be the defender of the constitution," Rabuka said.
Fiji Times deputy editor Netani Rika, who also spoke at the TV forum, said elected leaders should now put the interests of the nation first, rather than their political aspirations.
"If they are able to do this, they will be able to form an arrangement, then it will see a government that involves people of all races," said Rika.