National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says the late former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase upheld the independence of institutions and was never vindictive or held grudges against those highly critical of his government.
Prasad says he came into contact with Qarase during his brief and first employment with the Fiji Development Bank when Qarase was the Chief Executive Officer.
Prasad says he remembers when he was at the University of the South Pacific at that time when Qarase became Interim Prime Minister having been selected and sworn in by the then RFMF Commander and now our current Prime Minister.
He says at that time USP's Vice-Chancellor was the late Savenaca Siwatibau.
Prasad says Siwatibau once called him and said "Biman you have to hold this Qarase government to account".
He says Siwatibau fully promoted academic freedom and encouraged academics to critically examine all government policies, emphasizing that it was their role to do so to ensure the maintenance of good governance, transparency, and accountability.
Prasad says he was one of the most vociferous and ardent critics of Qarase's government and some of the policies they were pursuing yet Qarase always invited them to the Economic Summit and asked the then Finance Minister Ratu Jone Kubuobola to ask Prasad to serve on the board of the then Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority now FRCS.
He says he served on the Fiji Revenue and Customs Authority on the condition that he would continue to criticize the government on other things except for the FRCA Board or its activities at the time. Prasad says all the board members were removed after the military coup.
As Prasad continued speaking, there were interjections from the government side and Prasad then asked the government to listen with some dignity.
Prasad says Qarase’s ability to successfully lead a genuine multiparty cabinet after the May 2006 general elections, demonstrated his ability and uniqueness to espouse genuine power-sharing.
Professor Prasad said the formation of the multiparty cabinet with the inclusion of 9 Ministers from his political opponents, who included veteran politician Krishna Datt, showed Qarase’s absolute trust and faith in the 1997 Constitution and the Korolevu Declaration that outlined why a multiparty cabinet was extremely important for Fiji.
He says unfortunately, this genuine power-sharing for the first time in our independent history was tragically cut short after 6 months by the military coup of 5th December 2006.
Prasad adds Qarase will also be remembered for stabilizing the economy after the May 2000 coup and maintaining a relatively stable economy during his 6-year term as Prime Minister.
He says under Qarase's stewardship of government, the Exim Bank of India agreed to lend $85 million for sugar mills upgrade project at a minimal interest rate of 1.5% to be paid over 15 years.
Prasad adds Qarase didn’t get the opportunity to see its proper implementation because of the coup.
The NFP Leader says Qarase had also announced in September 2006, the inflow and implementation of major sugar industry reforms over 7 years of a $350 million grant from the European Union that would have significantly boosted the livelihood of cane growers and provided them alternative livelihoods through diversification.
Prasad says that money was withheld by the European Union and eventually lost after the coup.
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