The Fiji Labour Party today claimed that the stance and attitude of the SDL government were in breach of the Supreme Court Ruling.
In statement today, FLP Parliamentary Leader Mahendra Chaudhry said statements in the media by the SDL that there would be no fresh negotiations was tantamount to contempt of court.
The Supreme Court ruling has very clearly set-out that both SDL’s and FLP’s cabinet entitlement shall be in proportion to its membership in the House of Representative which is 45% and 40% respectively.
In a 36-member cabinet, should the Prime Minister prefer to maintain his coalition partners then the SDL quota of 17 will be reduced to 14. FLP’s entitlement would be 15 and 4 places can be offered to the independents and non-party senators at the discretion of the Prime Minister.
In accordance with paragraph 116 of the ruling, the participation of the minority parties (those not meeting the 10% threshold) will come out the Prime Ministers share of 17, reducing his share to 14. This effectively means that the number of SDL ministers will have to be reduced from 17 to 14.
It appears that the SDL do not seem to understand that the ruling has implications on the status quo of the current cabinet. It follows therefore that the only logical course which is consistent with the ruling available to the Prime Minister is to either remove three (3) SDL Ministers to make it consistent with the ruling.
If the Prime Minister wishes to accommodate everyone currently in cabinet (17 SDL and 5 others), then the only re-course available to him is to increase the cabinet to 45. This would not be in the interest of taxpayers and within the principles of good governance given that 50% of our people living in poverty. The FLP reiterates that any multi-party cabinet must not depart from responsible use of public funds, although this is the prerogative of the Prime Minister.
The FLP is of the view that in order to be consistent with the ruling and in the spirit of good-faith negotiations, the Prime Minister should dismantle the entire cabinet in order to make a fresh offer in good faith to the FLP in compliance with the ruling and in the spirit of the power-sharing concept enshrined in the Constitution.
The FLP is concerned with comments by the SDL that there shall be no negotiations and it was up to the FLP whether to take the existing offer or stay out.
“The question of accepting or rejecting the offer does not arise, simply because the current offer of the Prime Minister is in breach of the ruling and therefore unconstitutional,” said Mr. Chaudhry The FLP is entitled to 15 seats in a cabinet of 36 (based on 40% of its membership in the House) and not 14 as claimed by the SDL.
The FLP reiterates that the Prime Minister is obliged to make a fresh offer and invite the FLP Leader to discuss implementation of the ruling by way of reconstruction of a cabinet that complies with the Supreme Court Ruling and the 1997 Constitution.