Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry met with Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase today in the first of their one-to-one talks to break the ice between the country’s two leading political parties.
The focus is on discussing ways of taking the nation forward by resolving a number of critical issues facing the nation among them land and sugar.
Mr. Chaudhry said afterwards that the talks covered the land issue, constitutional changes, restructuring of the sugar industry, multi-party cabinet and a government of national unity as well the report of CERD on racial discrimination in Fiji.
In addition, both leaders agreed that firm action needed to be taken to curtail racial remarks that denigrate other communities and their leaders.
On the sugar industry, the two agreed that talks should continue through the parliamentary select committee on sugar. The leaders hope to achieve consensus on the restructure process
through this mechanism.
On the multiparty cabinet, the two leaders failed to agree but had decided to maintain flexibility in arriving at a satisfactory. It is believed that Qarase is still opposed to taking Labour on board his government. Chaudhry believes that the best way forward must be through a government of national unity.
The two agreed that other issues of concern be tackled through the subcommittee of the Talanoa talks which will continue after the Supreme Court case. These are issues regarding land leases, the CERD report on racial discrimination and changes to the Constitution.
A joint statement by the two leaders confirmed the above agreement
The critical state of Fiji’s economy, in particular concern over the deteriorating state of the sugar industry, prompted the Prime Minister to accept Mr. Chaudhry’s call for a one to one meeting with him prior to any resumption of the Talanoa talks.
Mr. Chaudhry had withdrawn from Talanoa last August after race relations worsened following scathing attacks on the Indian community by the government side.
He also felt that the PM had come to the talks with a closed mind and with a view to getting Labour’s support for legislative changes without making concessions to Labour’s concerns.