By Lice Movono in Suva
Former Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase died early today at the Oceania Hospital in Suva, following a short illness.
Confirming the death this afternoon, his traditional spokesperson, former newspaper editor Mesake Koroi, said the former Prime Minister died at 6.10am.
“The Qarase Family with deep regret hereby confirms the passing of the former Prime Minister of Fiji Laisenia Qarase. Mr Qarase passed away at the Private Hospital in Suva at 6:10am today, Tuesday 21st April 2020.”
“Mr Qarase ‘being a village boy’ will be laid to rest at his home village of Mavana in Vanuabalavu. Funeral arrangements are yet to be finalised.”
The statement explains Qarase did not want traditional funeral protocols, or reguregu, to be carried out.
Koroi said a family delegation had visited Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama to formally inform government of Laisenia Qarase’s passing.
The 79-year-old is survived by his wife, Leba Qarase, their 7 children, 26 grandchildren and three great grandchildren.
Tui Kobuca and banker
Qarase was the Tui Kobuca, the chief of Mavana village on Vanuabalavu.
A banker by profession, Qarase was Fiji’s sixth Prime Minister.
He held the position twice from 2000-2006; the first time was in the interim government after the 2000 coup, on the appointment of current Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, who was then Commander of the military.
Twice after Qarase was Prime Minister as a result of parliamentary elections in 2001 and 2006 before he was removed from power following the military coup of December 5, 2006.
Qarase was educated at Queen Victoria School and Suva Grammar School before he studied commerce at New Zealand’s University of Auckland.
In his early career, Qarase served government in the Fijian Affairs Board, and in the Ministries of Finance, Commerce and Industry and Public Service.
As a banker, Qarase was the first itaukei managing director of the Fiji Development Bank (FDB) from 1983 to 1998. In the 1980s he designed the formation of Fijian Holdings Limited to represent the itaukei in the business sector.
He was chairman of the country’s first television company; Fiji Television from its inception in 1994 to 1998. He was also head of the Fiji Merchant Bank.
Qarase was awarded the Star of Melanesia by the Governor-General of Papua New Guinea, Sir Paulias Matane, in recognition of his contribution to promote the interests of Melanesian people in the Pacific.
Lice Movono is a journalist with Mai TV.