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Fiji Oppn party members sworn-in

Nine members of ethnic Indian Fiji Labour Party were sworn in as ministers in PM Laisenia Qarase's Cabinet.

india Updated: May 24, 2006 13:09 IST

Nine members of the Fiji Labour Party were sworn in as government ministers on Wednesday in a historic power-sharing deal following racially-divisive elections.

Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry, deposed as the South Pacific country's first ethnic Indian Prime Minister in a 2000 coup, decided to stay out of the cabinet to focus on leading his party.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase's United Fiji Party narrowly won the elections earlier this month but in line with a constitutional requirement invited nine Labour legislators to join his 24-member Cabinet.

The Labour party's deputy leader Poseci Bune, who has been appointed as environment minister, said after the swearing-in he believed the multi-party cabinet would not be torn apart by the traditionally bitter divisions between the two parties.

"I think we should be able to address and resolve most of the differences," Bune told Legend radio.

The Indo-Fijian dominated Labour boycotted a ceremony on Tuesday to swear in ministers in a dispute over portfolio allocation but a later caucus meeting decided to join the Cabinet.

Although the multi-party provision has been in the Constitution since 1997, this is the first time power-sharing negotiations have been successfully completed.

The racial divisions that sparked coups in 1987 and 2000 were reflected in the election, which saw the vast majority of indigenous Fijians voting to re-elect the nationalist party.

Indo-Fijians, who make up just under 40 per cent of the population, backed Labour.

First Published: May 24, 2006 13:09 IST