Thursday, August 21, 2008

Pacific Forum Statement on Fiji

The following message is from Forum Secretariat:
Title : Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Retreat makes statement on Fiji Content :
PRESS STATEMENTS:21 August 200839th PACIFIC ISLANDS FORUM LEADERS RETREAT STATEMENT ON THE SITUATION IN FIJI, MATAVAI RESORT, NIUE, 20th AUGUST 2008

Leaders:
(a) expressed serious concern at the failure by the Fiji Interim Government to attend the 2008 annual Pacific Islands Forum and consider this non-attendance unacceptable; and further stated that the Interim Government should have attended to account to Forum Leaders for the undertakings given at the 2007 Forum in Tonga to hold an election by March 2009, in accordance with Fiji’s existing Constitution and electoral laws;

(b) condemned the recent statements by the Fiji Interim Government that are inconsistent with the undertakings provided to Leaders at the 2007 Forum regarding the holding of elections and a return to democracy;

(c) reaffirmed the importance of the Interim Government honoring the undertakings it made to Forum Leaders in 2007 to return Fiji to democracy by holding an election by March 2009, and to accept the outcomes of that election;
(d) acknowledged the importance of maintaining and encouraging continued pressure from the Forum and other members of the international community to meet the March 2009 deadline;

(e) reaffirmed the readiness of Forum members to continue to assist Fiji prepare for that election;

(f) commended the work undertaken by the Fiji-Forum Joint Working Group up to June 2008, and urged Fiji to demonstrate its good faith in maintaining a constructive relationship with the Forum by resuming participation in the Working Group;

(g) acknowledged that there are long-term issues that need to be addressed in Fiji, including through independent and inclusive political dialogue. In this context, Leaders recognised that a political dialogue process could assist in developing understandings among key stakeholders that would:
(i) create a more conducive environment for an election to be held under Fiji’s existing Constitution by March 2009; and
(ii) address the process for ongoing dialogue that a newly elected government and key stakeholders would need to progress following an election in order to advance relevant reforms and promote national reconciliation. Accordingly Leaders expressed the Forum’s support for a political dialogue process, providing it is: - complementary to the implementation of Fiji’s commitments to the Forum on elections, and not used to delay the elections; - conducted as a genuine dialogue, without preconditions, threats, ultimatums or predetermined outcomes; - supported by all key stakeholders;

(h) expressed the Forum’s support for and willingness to assist in appropriate ways the Commonwealth-led political dialogue process, and directed the Ministerial Contact Group to monitor the progress of that dialogue and any political consensus within Fiji which might arise from it;

(i) emphasised the importance of Fiji maintaining respect for human rights and the rule of law;

(j) reiterated their appreciation for the solidarity with and support for the Forum’s work on Fiji provided by other members of the international community;

(k) tasked the Ministerial Contact Group with continued monitoring of the Fiji situation, including the possibility of the Group returning to Fiji, and directed it to report back to Leaders before the end of 2008 on the situation regarding election preparations, and other key issues. The Ministerial Contact Group’s report should include recommendations, taking into account practice in the Commonwealth and other relevant organisations, on further measures that the Forum should take to promote compliance by the Fiji Interim Government with its 2007 Vava’u election undertakings, with a view to strengthening the Forum’s efforts under the Biketawa Declaration;

(l) agreed that following the receipt of the Ministerial Contact Group’s second report, the Leaders would consider a further special meeting of Forum Leaders by the end of 2008 to consider special measures in relation to Fiji (consistent with paragraph 2(iv) of the Biketawa Declaration) and that measures to be considered include the suspension of particular governments from the Forum; and

(m) agreed in principle the offer of Papua New Guinea to host a special meeting.

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