Laisenia Qarase

Prime Minister of Fiji (1941-2020)
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Laisenia Qarase has been the Prime Minister of Fiji since 2000.

Miscellaneous quotes

  • "Fiji can make a similar report on the US on all those issues. Our report would be far worse than the US state department's report on Fiji." (2 March 2005, reacting to a US State Department report critical on the state of race relations in Fiji).

Speech to Muslims celebrating Mohammed's birthday, 25 April 2005

  • "My government's aim for Fiji is not to return to where we once were but to journey forward together to a place we have not yet been, a Fiji of lasting peace and harmony, where nobody is left behind or goes without".

Excerpts from a speech to the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific, 13 May 2005

  • "The shame is compounded by the failure of developed countries to commit enough of their wealth and resources to helping poor populations from developing countries."
  • "Good governance is also about rooting out corruption, which is a stain on the integrity of any nation".

Excerpts from a speech to the Christian Youth Conference in Suva, 15 May 2005

  • "Follow the teachings and you will not go wrong."
  • "Don't worry if some of your peers think that a strong commitment to Christianity is not very fashionable. You can be as fashionable as you want, while still believing in Jesus and giving witness to him".

Summary of Qarase's remarks about the proposed establishment of a Reconciliation and Unity Commission, 5 May 2005 (excerpts from the Fijian government website)

  • "In 2000 Fiji experienced the greatest crisis in its contemporary history … Fiji came close to complete collapse and anarchy; some form of civil war was a real possibility. This would not only have pitted Fijians against Indians but Fijians against Fijians, and Province against Province. But the country did not fall. It stepped back from the brink. It drew on its inner strength and a vein of tolerance and restraint and began the task of remaking Fiji."
  • "Last year (October 2004), the nation celebrated a week of reconciliation and forgiveness, supported by all our main religions and numerous civic organizations and individuals from all our ethnic groups. Some of those who had suffered particular hurt in 2000, questioned the motives behind this and did not feel they could take part. Their views must be respected. They endured an ordeal which left deep wounds."
  • "Two distinct ethnic groups, with quite different cultures and religious beliefs, were … put together in the same islands. Colonial policy largely kept them apart and there was, therefore, little assimilation. This racial separation and segregation became a defining feature of our country. The two communities have co-existed, without finding a sense of unified nationhood."
  • "We cannot bring our people together, and give all energies to development, when the agony of 2000 lives on and haunts us through prosecutions and sentences. Five years have gone by and … there is no end in sight. I believe it is time now for fresh thinking and action."
  • "It is now time for us to bring a greater degree of closure to a tragic period of our history. We must not forget what happened in 2000, but we must turn our eyes more to the future."
  • "We have to recognise our cultural differences, but accept that they enrich our society. We also have to accept that all communities and citizens have contributed to the nation. We must understand that our homeland can only reach its full promise if we all continue to contribute, with fair and equitable benefits for all. Finally, we must recognize that for the accomplishment of full nationhood and unity, we have to give greater emphasis to our common interests".

Additional remarks about the proposed Reconciliation and Unity Commission

  • "Any Bill is drafted without consulting any party or stakeholders is because it contains what the Government wants to be included in the Bill." (20 May 2005, explaining why he had not consulted the Great Council of Chiefs on the legislation).
  • "We cannot bring the people together and concentrate all our energies on developing the country when the agony of 2000 is continuously haunting us." (27 May 2005, from a speech to the annual conference of his United Fiji Party).
  • "I emphasise again that people who participated in the 2000 uprising with criminal intent, as established by the police, will continue to be subject to the full force of the law. The Bill is not intended to provide relief to those who used the coup for their own gain or other criminal intent." (14 June 2005).
  • "The sections of the Bill dealing with amnesty were not plucked out of thin air. They have been taken from legislation adopted and successfully used elsewhere. The principles of amnesty are well known and accepted internationally. We have done the research on this." (14 June 2005).
  • "The foundation in which the Bill was introduced was for the Government to offer a political solution that was legally binding, because if the Government had not introduced the Unity Bill, the investigations will never end. Trial after trial and the list goes on. About 2500 people have been investigated. Those who turned up in Parliament was close to 20,000 people. I mean, if 10,000 to 20,000 people are going to be investigated, God knows when it will end." (8 July 2005).
  • "We must learn to respect each other's views and to differ without anger or ill will." (14 July 2005).
  • "With a resounding yes I say we can reconcile and that it really is a matter of the heart." (27 July 2005).
  • "We encircle the globe with a chain of love, faith and trust, knowing that He (God) is listening."
  • "Two thousand and five is our Year of Forgiveness in Fiji. Again, we are seeking God’s help in reconciliation and in making the country whole. Each of the great religions teaches forgiveness. That is a golden thread that links them."
  • "For Christians, the rules are clear. They are under order to forgive. We must follow those orders, no matter how difficult they appear. If we do not forgive, God will not forgive us. That is the beginning and the end of it."
  • "The forgiveness of Christ is complete, and without condition. It is not dependent on an apology, or tied to a punishment."
  • "Christianity took Ratu Cakobau and the Fijians from the way of the club, to the way of peace. Our islands were transformed forever".

Address to the Editors' Forum, Suva, 27 July 2005

  • "Opponents seem to think the end of the world is nigh and that law and order will grind to a complete halt. Their strategy is based on attack, attack, attack."
  • "I try to live by proper ethical and moral standards and carry out my national duties in accordance with the principles of the God I believe in".

Response to the decision of the Great Council of Chiefs to endorse the bill, 28 July 2005

  • "The decision (of the Great Council of Chiefs to endorse the bill) was made in the best interest of the country and a significant milestone in the process of consultation"..

Response to continuing opposition to the Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Unity Bill, 30 July 2005

  • "We are trying to establish a process beginning with problems arising from 2000. In the second part of the Bill we propose to establish a permanent national council for promotion of reconciliation, unity and tolerance and that to me is most important part of this Bill."
  • "I think it would be a pity if Chaudhry brushed aside majority Fijian opinion on a major issue. He has done this before and it will be a sad day for Fiji if he does that again this time."
  • "I think the overwhelming Fijian support for the Bill is saying we are offering a hand of reconciliation, a hand of forgiveness, a hand of friendship, a hand of repentance and unity. I were in Chaudhry's shoes I would grab the opportunity to try and establish dialogue through this Bill with the Fijian people to promote reconciliation and unity and I will do the same with Mr Beddoes as well. He has expressed his opposition to the Bill. This is a rare opportunity for them to help bridge the obvious gulf between our people".

Excerpt from speech at Life Skills workshop, Valelevu Grounds, 22 May 2005

  • "I believe many of our country's differences stem from the lack of genuine appreciation of the cultures and religious traditions and beliefs of our various communities".

Excerpt from speech to mark the week of Ratu Sukuna Day celebrations, 24 May 2005

  • "I believe that the chiefs of Fiji have relevance for all our citizens not just the Fijians, they still represent stability, order and continuity. If the chiefs were diminished, the entire nation would be weakened and be vulnerable"..

Excerpts from a parliamentary speech, 3 June 2005

  • "They (the indigenous Fijian people) believe they (their demands for political power) are just and reasonable, given our history, racial division, present-day majority of Fijians, their ownership of the land and their indigenous identity."
  • "In view of what has happened to other indigenous groups, the fear and insecurity of Fijians should be easy to understand".

Excerpts from an address to the Commonwealth Workshop in Nadi, 29 August 2005

  • "We will only overcome this (communal politics) when there is greater interracial trust, confidence and assimilation."
  • "It requires commitment, vision and will. Differences of ethnicity and multi-culturalism have to be managed and accommodated. It is a difficult balancing act, which must take account of the interests of all communities."
  • "We have to ensure that development is inclusive; that no particular group is disadvantaged or discriminated against."
  • "We remain dedicated to accomplishing greater social justice through a fairer sharing of wealth and opportunity. We will stay the course, because it is right for Fiji."
  • "Reconciliation between our communities, following all the hurt and distress of 2000, is a critical part of the reconstruction of the country."
  • "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, vesting every individual with equal rights, was directly opposed to the hierarchical social structure of indigenous Fijian society. Chiefs were at the apex by virtue of their birth and rank. The rest of the people had a communal functional role in this hierarchy".

Opening address to the Education Summit, Suva, 31 August 2005

  • "Their efforts and their sacrifices for education are immeasurable. They started their schools for their own children. Over the years, increasing numbers of Fijian and other students were taken in. Today, in a majority of their schools Fijian children predominate. There is a large debt of gratitude owed here that I am pleased to acknowledge." (Paying tribute to Indian and Chinese schools in Fiji).
  • "We all share the same vision for our children. It is one of the things that binds us together. Let this Summit give extra strength and purpose to the great cause of education".

Address to the annual conference of the Fiji Employers Federation, 2 September 2005

  • "Labour will try to convince you that it is sympathetic to business. Don’t believe such stories. The truth is that the party has a classic left-wing suspicion of business and the profit motive".

Address to the United Nations General Assembly, 17 September 2005 (excerpts)

  • "This age of globalisation is marked by the adoption of universal principles governing such matters as democracy, human rights, trade and development. Today, I reaffirm here that Fiji accepts these precepts. But we also say that countries like ours should not be held to unrealistic standards, we need time to evolve to adapt and to adhere. Do not judge us by what might be inappropriate at our stage of development."
  • "For our country, it is vitally important, as a factor for long-standing stability, that we always maintain a careful balance between the rights of individuals and communities, the special interests of indigenous people, including their right of ownership to their natural resources must also be protected".

Address to the 18th Australia-Fiji Business Forum, Shangri-La Fijian Resort, Sydney, Australia, 17 October 2005 (excerpts)

  • "WTO (the World Trade Organization) is trying to impose equality of trade in an unequal world, but for developing countries like Fiji there is no level playing field, just a slippery slope."
  • "They forget that although our economy has been doing well, it is still narrow and fragile and it will take a long time before we can compete fully with the developed nations".

Letter to Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, 20 October 2005 (excerpts)

  • "I want to assure you, Prime Minister, that we in Fiji cherish the vital and valuable role, and the enormous contribution, which members of our Indian community have played, and are continuing to play in the development and progress of our country."
  • "As leaders of our respective countries, we are faced with the same challenge of forging greater unity and cohesiveness in our diverse societies, and I share your view that this requires leadership committed to the welfare and interests of all citizens and communities".

Parliamentary speech, 23 November 2005 (excerpts)

  • "Recently we heard that a prominent parliamentarian converted government assets to his personal use. Very soon, we will hear of some prominent politicians evading tax deliberately. Very soon we will hear of people abusing their travel entitlements. We extend zero-tolerance to these kind of people and some years ago, we know that the former Prime Minister converted government funds to improve his own personal standing by renovating and upgrading his personal house. The member for Labasa Open went on a fishing trip at government expense … This is fraud. I do not know want you want to call it, but it is fraud, using taxpayers' money for personal use".

Prime Minister Qarase made the following remarks in response to the decision of Fiji's Daily Post newspaper to republish twelve cartoons that have offended many Muslims throughout the world.

  • "It has, understandably, aggrieved our Muslim community. Their religion and its founder have been insulted, and ridiculed." (Fiji Live).
  • "The Code (Fiji Media Council Code of Ethics) is quite clear in its guidelines on religion. Those guidelines have not been followed in this instance," Qarase said. (Pacific Magazine).
  • "While the Constitution guarantees press freedom, it must be used with sensitivity, respect and good judgement in a multi-cultural and multi-religious country such as ours," he said. (Pacific Magazine).
  • "Freedom carries obligations and responsibilities. This applies, in particular, to the news media. Our media have an obligation to exercise their responsibilities in a manner that reflects the social, cultural and religious values of our different communities. (Pacific Magazine).
  • "Let us respect each other and avoid causing unnecessary hurt to those with beliefs and faiths different from ours." (Pacific Magazine).

Interview, 16 June 2006

  • "This doctrine was not so much to do with sinlessness but with personal growth. It is about the attitude that should guide us in our relationships with others according to the commandment of loving your neighbor. I will just add that I am far from perfect in my faith. I often stumble and fall but I will never stop striving to serve God in the best way I can, to honor him and to serve the purpose for which he has called me. I know in my heart that what has transpired since the elections are part of God's plan for Fiji. He has given me a part to play in this and I cannot refuse it." (quoted in Fiji Village)

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