Thursday, June 19, 2008

PM, Qarase need our support

PM, Qarase need our support - 6/18/2008

The public should now rally behind the two leaders, Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama and ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase to continue their meeting to resolve the political crisis facing the nation.
I must admit Fiji is facing a political crisis and it needs a political solution.

Ousted Prime Minister and Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua (SDL) party leader in an interview with the Fiji Sun on February 10 said - The political crisis in Fiji needs a political solution and I’ll be willing to be part of it.”

We must thank the two church leaders, Catholic head Archbishop Petero Mataca and Methodist president the Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca for their involvement in getting the two leaders together.

It is a fact the deepening political crisis in Fiji must be resolved now.

Our political leaders must put aside their personal differences and put the national interest as a priority as people continue to suffer as the crisis drags on.

Now we see light on the other side of the tunnel when the two leaders met for the second time on Tuesday (June 17).

There is a need for constructive dialogue.

As the need grows for serious and constructive dialogue between the two leaders, Mr Bainimarama and Mr Qarase should be reassured of the support from all communities after their second meet.

The two church leaders have provided the right climate and atmosphere for the meet and for the two leaders to find the best conditions for putting it in the right direction which leads to the fulfillment of the aspired objectives.

I must admit we see the great opportunity that has been provided for the two leaders to build bridges for the betterment of the nation.

Former Vice President, Turaga na Roko Tui Bau Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi said at the Fiji Institute of Accountants Congress - “There is a critical need for dialogue and engagement in for that the Interim Government and its political opponents can participate without preconditions.”

We know for sure this meeting has been arranged with no preconditions.

In a joint statement after the meeting, it said the discussion involved an exchange of views on the Peoples Charter for Change, Peace and Progress and the proposed forum to be facilitated by the United Nations and the Commonwealth Secretariat within a multilateral framework.

“In the meeting, the discussion, which involved a candid exchange of views, focused on a number of issues including the Peoples Charter, the proposed Forum to be facilitated by the UN and the Commonwealth Secretariat,” the statement said.

The Head of the Catholic Church in Fiji Archbishop Petero Mataca and the president of the Methodist Church in Fiji Reverend Laisiasa Ratabacaca also attended the meeting. The four leaders met informally for the second time within a month.

They reiterated the great importance of constructive, forward-looking dialogue, including the efforts that are now needed aimed at healing and reconciliation at the national level. They urged Fiji’s traditional, community, civic and religious leaders to play an active and a leading role in the reconciliation efforts at community and national level.

Mr Qarase said the second meeting was good. “I must say this second meeting went really well in the presence of the two church leaders and it was also longer than the first one,” he said. He said this was another small step towards moving the country forward and he looked forward to the next meeting.

“This is another step forward for us and moving the country forward and the idea of having a third meeting has also come up,” said Mr Qarase.

The leaders have also emphasised that leaders in Fiji need to set the example in the way they lead and to exercise effectively the responsibility that positions of leadership entrust upon them.

It will be interesting to know the gist of the meeting about the charter.

While PM Bainimarama is fully supporting the charter as the way forward for Fiji, Mr Qarase does not.

After the Qarase-led Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party annual general meeting last month it agreed to 16 resolutions and the first is on the National Council for Building a Better Fiji and it says - “ We view with great concern the large amount of resources and financial commitments totaling some 2.4 million dollars that the Interim Administration has set aside for the National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF), in its effort to draw up a Charter which is supposed to bind future Governments on future policies and directions for Fiji.

The NCBBF in our view, has no authority under the Constitution to undertake such work, and similarly its Charter has no authority to bind future Governments elected by the people with their mandate to govern in accordance with Fiji Constitution.

We urge that in the light of its illegality, its overwhelming rejection by the majority of the people of Fiji, and its expensive operation including its technical support unit and consultants, that the Council be immediately dismantled and its resources be re-directed to other pressing priorities.”

According to Ratu Joni the process under the National Council for Building A Better Fiji can continue to develop the principles for a Charter for good governance, but there has to be another means for finding common ground.

“The onus is upon the regime, as the party holding the reins of power, to engage. Without this happening, the country will continue to drift divided and fractured as ever.”

I believe the meeting of the two leaders with the backing of the two church leaders has given an opportune time for the two leaders to thrash out all about the charter and find a solution that will be good for the nation.

Ratu Joni said the debate would centre on how the principles to be enshrined in this document are to be incorporated in the Constitution.

“If the Interim Government wishes to force it on us, as with a new electoral system, they have the backing of the military to silence dissent.”

One of the drafters of the 1997 Constitution Dr Brij Lal said - “The Charter will be nothing more than an aspirational document, a wish list, a road map about future Fiji. It will have no constitutional validity. It cannot be legally enforced on anyone. The best course of action will be to have the Charter considered by an elected parliament. If its ideas are good and worthy of consideration, it will be taken seriously by politicians and the people generally. It might even form the platform of a political party in a general election. In that sense it can be a useful educational document. But ultimately, it is the people of Fiji who will decide whether they endorse the values and principles of the Charter. Any thought that the charter can be forced on people is false. Any institution that does not have the endorsement of the people will fail. Force or the threat of force can take you only so far, and no further.”

He adds - “The Charter cannot be made a part of the constitution without the endorsement of the parliament. Bainimarama’s best option is to present the Charter to the people of Fiji as a roadmap for a future Fiji, his vision for the country. The Charter could then become the basis of discussion and negotiation between the principal stakeholders. If there is consensus on certain issues, these could then be incorporated into the constitution by a re-convened parliament, after which Fiji could go into a general election. One of the major problems is Cdr Bainimarama’s inconsistency. At one moment, he wants to have dialogue with Laisenia Qarase and at another he says he will have dialogue only on his own terms. He promises free and fair elections and then says that SDL will be disbarred from contesting the elections. He says he will return the country to parliamentary democracy, but then says the Military Council will be guardian of the Charter. It is

difficult to decipher the mind game he is playing, but it reflects no credit on the interim administration.”

We know Mr Qarase supports the proposed forum to be facilitated by the United Nations and the Commonwealth Secretariat within a multilateral framework.

We now urge the two leaders with the help of the two church leaders to continue with their dialogue and the people as a nation must now stand up and support national reconciliation, nation building, for the birth of a new Fiji.

Let the dialogue outcome ensure that there be justice for all, there be peace for all and there be work, bread, water and salt for all.

We lay our trust on the two leaders and the church leaders that they will continue to stand by us as they tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-racialism and true democracy.

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