Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry and his two FLP colleagues have resigned as Cabinet Ministers following a directive from the Party’s National Council in the week-end.
Chaudhry, Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi and Tom Ricketts handed in their letters of resignation to Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama on Monday afternoon, effective Tuesday 19 August 2008.
“It was an amicable parting. The Prime Minister hoped that we will be able to continue to assist in some form or another,” Mr Chaudhry said after the three met with the PM.
The Prime Minister announced in a media conference yesterday that he would act as Minister of Finance. The other portfolios are to be shared by existing Cabinet Ministers with Sugar going to the Minister for Primary Industries.
The FLP National Council made the move to disengage from the government to allow the Labour Party to conduct the process of evaluating and consulting on the Draft People’s Charter objectively and without any perception of its being linked to government.
Here is the full statement issued by Party President Jokapeci Koroi at the end of the meeting:
“The National Council of the Fiji Labour Party met in Nadi on Sunday and unanimously resolved that with a Draft People’s Charter ready for public scrutiny, it is now time for its ministers to disengage from the Interim government.
The FLP Council is of the view that the recommendations of the Draft People’s Charter need to be carefully evaluated and considered by the Party. In this process, it will need to consult widely with the rank and file members before it makes a final decision on the Charter.
The process through which the Charter is endorsed by the people of Fiji needs to be credible and legitimate, if it is to be acceptable to the local as well as the international community.
To ensure this, the FLP National Council strongly believes that Labour’s evaluation and consultation exercise with respect to the Charter will need to be conducted objectively and without any perception of bias.
A second, and equally important, point is that any Charter must be acceptable to the people, for without their endorsement and support any such initiative will not succeed. The ownership of the Charter must rest with the people.
The FLP is also mindful of the fact that the proposed Charter has widespread opposition from certain political parties as well as other representative organisations and the fact that much of what is proposed in the Charter will need constitutional and legislative amendments.
The FLP notes that whilst the proposed Charter has constructive suggestions, there are also grounds of contention with respect to electoral reform, common name as well as the issue of land. To address such stated contentions the FLP will have to be objective in its approach to the Charter and be guided by its representatives and electoral constituents. To this end, the FLP will begin its Charter consultation process immediately.
A timetable has been set which will see the FLP leadership as well as its senior party officials, in the coming weeks, traverse the nation, and engage in active consultation with the people. A concerted media campaign will also be conducted in tandem with the interactive consultation process to enhance public awareness and education.
It is to be noted that the FLP had joined the interim government on the condition that executive authority was returned to His Excellency the President in order to assist in the process of returning Fiji to parliamentary democracy through general elections.
An important consideration for the FLP becoming a part of the Interim government was to save Fiji from imminent financial and economic collapse, as well as to reform Fiji’s system of governance, rid it of corruption and racial discrimination, and to promote national unity.
Now that work on the draft Charter for Change, Peace and Progress has been completed, the Party should concentrate on consultation on the Charter and strengthen its constituency structures.
The FLP National Council has resolved that it is in the best interests of the Party that it disengages from the Interim government to allow it to effectively engage with the population with respect to the draft Charter as well as to prepare for the next general elections.
The National Council has therefore directed that the three FLP Ministers holding Cabinet portfolios resign from the Interim Government and advise the interim Prime Minister accordingly.
The three Ministers are:
Mahendra Chaudhry – Minister of Finance, National Planning,
Sugar Industry & Public Utilities
Tom Ricketts – Minister for Industry, Investment, Tourism
Lekh Ram Vayeshnoi – Minister for Labour/ Industrial Relations, Local
Government, Urban Development, Housing and Environment
The FLP National Council has called on the Interim Government to encourage political dialogue on the proposed Charter with all relevant party representatives and to set a firm and committed timeline for general elections. Any uncertainty with regard to a firm date for elections will be to the great detriment of this nation.”