Thursday, February 22, 2007

Forum Remain Engaged with Fiji

Forum must remain engaged with Fiji: EPG - Wednesday February 21, 2007

Members of the Forum Eminent Person Group
The Pacific Islands Forum should remain engaged with Fiji to encourage the interim administration to overcome its current difficulties, according to the Forum Eminent Person’s Group (EPG) report.

Before that, it has recommended a number of measures to be undertaken by the interim government before any financial and technical assistance is made available.

Among others, the EPG wants the interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama to vacate his position, recall all soldiers back to barracks and lift the State of Emergency.

Commodore Bainimarama must then appoint a civilian to lead the interim government.

The EPG report also suggested that the interim government commit without delay to a roadmap with measurable milestones - a timeframe of 18 months to two years for national elections and not to link the election timetable to the military’s clean up campaign.

"Judging from the reception given to the EPG, and the overtures made for the Forum to engage in sustentative dialogue to assist in the return to democracy, the EPG should remain in being and continue further dialogue in a closely engaged and phased manner," the report leaked to PACNEWS said.

Some Forum Dialogue Partners urged the Forum to decide what measures need to be taken to assist other members of the international community to calibrate their position.

"Most stakeholders felt that a credible and independent anti corruption commission, and assistance for the electoral process should be supported, if it hastens the return to democracy and an election.

If the interim government will commit to a roadmap for return to democracy and cessation of human rights abuses, then the Forum will consider a phased package of assistance.

This will include financial and technical assistance for the electoral process and the establishment of an anti corruption commission and assistance to restore the independence of the judiciary.

The Forum high level group was able to identify four major underlying causes of the December 5 military takeover.

These were attempts by the Laisenia Qarase government to pardon coup convicts of 2000, attempts to remove and replace Commodore Bainimarama and the review of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces.

The introduction of the alleged racially divisive legislations – the Qoliqoli Bill, Indigenous Claims Tribunal Bill and the controversial Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity (RTU) Bill also contributed in part to the events of 05 December.

Also, the EPG report said issues relating to the conduct of the 2006 national elections and alleged widespread corruption gave rise to the overthrow of the four month old democratically elected government.

During their consultations in Fiji from 29 January - 01 February, the four member group met with the president, interim prime minister and his cabinet ministers, the Great Council of Chiefs, ousted prime minister and some of his ministers, members of parliament, suspended chief justice and members of the judiciary, Fiji Human Rights Commission, NGO’s, churches, the media, trade unions and Suva based Forum representatives and dialogue partners.

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