Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry has rubbished a bitter personal attack launched on him by Laisenia Qarase as “unbecoming of a prime minister’’.
Qarase on Friday made an unscheduled speech in Parliament attacking Chaudhry for his submission to the United Nations Committee on elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (UNCERD) against his government’s racial policies. He also accused Chaudhry of not co-operating to resolve the land issue and the restructure of the sugar industry.
Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes also criticised Qarase for his attack on Chaudhry and said if the PM wanted co-operation from the opposition benches, he had to earn it.
Chaudhry responded by claiming the PM’s diatribe was an admission of defeat: “It shows how frustrated he is. Unable to handle the problems he is confronted with, the prime minister is turning to racial attacks.”
On the National Farmers Union submission to CERD, Chaudhry said the report was nothing new. It was submitted in August last year and widely reported by the media in Fiji at the time.
“The report carries the truth about racially discriminatory policies practised by the SDL government. Qarase’s government stands in breach of not only articles of the CERD but also in breach of Fiji’s own constitution,” he said.
The Fiji case comes up for discussion by the UN committee in Geneva on March 14 and 17. The committee has also asked government to provide a progress report on the multi-party cabinet case.
Perhaps because of this, the case is finally now scheduled to be heard by the Supreme Court in its June sitting.
On Qarase’s criticism regarding the sugar industry, Chaudhry said the prime minister was now trying to shift the blame on him for his own failure to resolve the current crisis in the industry.
“The truth is that Qarase came to the Talanoa talks on land issues with a fixed mind. He wanted to impose his decision on us. We are not prepared to go to talks with conditions attached.”
As for the restructuring of the sugar industry, the Labour leader said farmers had made it clear they were going to be part of any plan that did not include them in the consultation phase.
The so-called industry proposal was just a rescue package for the financially stricken Fiji Sugar Corporation at the expense of the farmers. This was not acceptable, he said.