You cannot gag me, Chaudhry tells PM

  • 1st August 2006
  • 2006
  • // Display comment count + link

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase cannot gag me, said Labour Leader Mahendra Chaudhry.

The Labour Leader was responding to a statement by the Prime Minister on TV One news last evening cautioning him against making remarks against the government as he was now “part of government”.

“I have made it very clear that those of us not in the Cabinet, make up the Opposition. In any case, Mr Qarase cannot stop me from speaking out on issues of national concern.

“I have repeatedly said that the economy and government finances are in dire straits. I warned the nation in a pre-election statement that government finances were so critical that by mid-year the Reserve Bank would be forced to take drastic measures.

“This has now come true. The Reserve Bank is putting pressure on government to implement cuts in civil service salaries to contain the burgeoning national deficit.

“The Fiji Chamber of Commerce has warned of a devaluation of the Fiji dollar – so critical is the situation,” Mr Chaudhry said.

“Instead of trying to gag me, the Prime Minister needs to urgently tell the nation as to what measures his government is planning to put in place to avert a financial crash.

“We are now told that some $35 million will be diverted from budgets of the various ministries to pay COLA to civil servants. This we have warned, will be at the cost of withdrawing essential public services in many key areas – health, education, infrastructure, police, etc.

“To make matters worse, these cuts, we are told, may result in massive redundancies in the public service, adding to the already high unemployment rate,” said Mr Chaudhry.

“As if that were not enough, the Minister of Finance has warned of the possibility of tax increases, to pay for the SDL government’s financial extravagance of the past five years. Where all this will end is fairly clear.

“The poor will be told to pay the price or perish”, said Mr. Chaudhry.