Saturday, November 24, 2007

SDL Shares its Vision for Fiji


23-Nov-2007

The following is the full text of a proposal sent to the Interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, by the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party.

THIS submission is presented to the Interim Prime Minister by the SDL Party to advance the process of dialogue about Fiji’s future announced by him at the recent Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tonga.
The SDL Leader, Laisenia Qarase, has stated publicly on a number of occasions that he is ready to meet with the Interim Prime Minister to jointly engage on finding solutions to the crisis currently gripping the nation.
Our party, therefore, welcomes Commodore Bainimarama’s willingness to begin discussions on the vital and grave issues central to that crisis.
We believe the national interest demands that hard feelings, personal animosity and anger be put aside. This will help open the way for the good-faith negotiations that will be required to get Fiji back on to a path that will lead to a return to parliamentary democracy, respect for the will of the people, renewed and sustainable economic growth and restoration of international relations.
In the initiative outlined here, the SDL is driven by its vision of a Fiji of peace, multiracial harmony and prosperity. As we have done previously, we will always encourage our communities to reach out to each other and overcome their differences. They should be united by a mutual loyalty to a homeland where rights, freedoms, equality and the rule of law are assured.
This message takes on special importance at a time when ethnic divisions have been widened as a result of the military coup of December 2006. We cannot afford to ignore this. Much work and reconciliation are required to bring healing, and right many wrongs.
Although there are serious differences between the SDL and the interim regime, we feel it is possible to find common ground. In fact, it already exists. Like Commodore Bainimarama, we endorse the findings of the report of the Eminent Persons’ Group commissioned by the Forum Foreign Affairs Ministers, and the decisions on Fiji at the Forum meeting in Tonga.
Similarly, we have a shared position with the Interim Government over the European Union’s conditions for the resumption of full aid for the country. If these conditions are not met, there will be dire consequences for the sugar industry. Commodore Bainimarama has made it clear that the Interim Government is committed to the EU’s benchmarks for progress. So again there is a close similarity in our responses to the EU.

General election

1. The Interim Prime Minister has promised that the national election will be held, at the latest, by March 2009. The SDL believes it should be possible to organise a national poll by late 2008. We are supported in this by the Independent Technical Assessment of Fiji’s election timetable.
Given the will, and allocation of adequate resources, there is no reason why the rights of the people to choose their own Government should not be returned to them by the earlier date. We urge Commodore Bainimarama to show goodwill by aiming for this. Such an action would help to create a more positive and conciliatory national mood. It would find favour with the majority of the populace who back the SDL.
2. It is critical that the pathway to elections and Parliament is based on proper legal foundations. That can only occur if the procedures set out in the Constitution are followed. The SDL, therefore, proposes the following actions:
(a) Parliament to be recalled to consider certain issues, as agreed, and to set the scene for the election;
(b) At that point the Interim Cabinet resigns, to be replaced by a multi-party, multi-racial Cabinet. It would be based on the current composition of Parliament, in accordance with Constitution;
(c) Once the Parliament has finished its business – which should take only a few days – the Prime Minister would tender his resignation and advise the President to dissolve parliament in the legal way;
(d) A caretaker Cabinet would be responsible for the basic business for the State for the period of the election.

3. The timing of the recall of Parliament will depend on the outcome of the dialogue on relevant issues with Commodore Bainimarama and the interim regime.

Amendments to
the Constitution

1. The SDL believes some amendments to the Constitution are necessary. Obviously these can only be dealt with by an elected Government.
2. Some of these proposed amendments relate to the voting system, accountability, restrictions on public office holders, and legislative provisions to eradicate Fiji’s coup culture.

Conclusion

This submission provides a starting point for dialogue, negotiation and agreement crucial for Fiji’s progress. There are many other serious matters relating to the management and restoration of our nation’s troubles we wish to discuss.
If the interim regime and the SDL are successful in addressing them, we will have achieved something that will help create a climate and a framework for repairing the nation.
The SDL stresses that it remains strong in its policy of working for the betterment of all the people of Fiji, particularly the poor and the needy. Our manifesto states: “We want Fiji to become permanently and truly united and happy, with all citizens living together in equality, peace, harmony and prosperity.” That is the policy we have always followed. There is no other way for Fiji.

God bless our country.

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