Tuesday, October 28, 2008

PM outlines his firm stand at the Forum

PM outlines his firm stand at the Forum

www.sun.com.fj - 10/28/2008

The political leaders at the political forum yesterday were reminded of the interim government’s commitment to see the People’s Charter through.
Opening the forum interim PM Bainimarama said: “Fiji faces some very fundamental, deep rooted and complex problems. There are no quick or easy solutions to these. The People’s Charter initiative that was launched late last year, outreached the people of Fiji, to make them fully aware of the country’s fundamental problems; and also, for our people to become actively involved and part of the solution, going forward.”

He said from the outset, the Peoples Charter process had been inclusive, consultative and participatory. All the representative organisations in the country, including all the major political parties, were invited to participate in the 45 member National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF), which was set up as a broadly inclusive, consultative body, independent of the interim government.

Those opposed to the interim government, he said, however, willfully decided not to participate in the NCBBF and in the formulation of the People’s Charter. In rejecting this path to national level dialogue and a consensus-based approach to taking Fiji forward, some of the ardent opponents of the interim government had also been vigorous in their efforts to sabotage the People’s Charter work.

He said the NCBBF had produced a comprehensive Report on the State of the Nation and the Economy (SNE Report); and, drawing upon this, a draft People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress was formulated. This draft People’s Charter is now being taken to the people throughout the whole country

“We cannot, and will not, abandon this enormous and important work, which is being achieved through an extensive participatory and consultative process, just because some of you, and some others, have so far remained opposed,” he told the political leaders yesterday.

“The vision in the People’s Charter is to rebuild the nation on solid, rocklike foundations of equal rights, social justice, and sustainable democratic governance. We must work together and do our best to remove the ‘coup culture’, and Fiji’s people and leaders at all levels must commit to democratic and just governance and to the rule of law. It is important that policies which promote racial supremacy, and which unfairly further the interests of commercial, social and cultural elites, are removed, once and for all. We must find a way to see that the nation’s resources are productively utilised and its wealth equitably shared.”

He said he hoped that yesterday’s forum would mark a turning point.

“It is still not too late for those who were earlier opposed, or challenged, to come on board now. I urge you to submit any ideas or amendments you may have to improve the draft People’s Charter.”

He reminded the leaders that what was contained in the draft Peoples Charter was not necessarily the “only way” or the “Bainimarama way” forward for Fiji. Judging from the very positive feedback they were getting and the strong support for it, the People’s Charter presented a considered way forward for Fiji.

He told the forum: “For its part, the interim government cannot and will not compromise on the solemn commitment that it has made to the people of Fiji. This commitment is to develop a political and governance framework that is truly democratic, accountable, inclusive, equitable, non-racial, and which will draw upon Fiji’s diverse communities as a source of strength, for our unity as a nation.”

He told the 14 political leaders that were present that Fiji faced some very fundamental, deep rooted and complex problems.

The PM then presented two options to achieve the vision of the Peoples Charter for a more stable and prosperous, united, non-racial Fiji.

“One option, and which I prefer, is to move forward through dialogue, confidence building and by developing a broad-based consensus for the change agenda, with a view to ensuring that democratically elected Governments undertake the implementation;

“Or the second option, in the absence of support for the change agenda from the political parties, this will result in a protracted delay in the holding of parliamentary elections under a truly democratic electoral system.”

He said: “For us to proceed on the path of the first option, it is imperative that in the President’s Political Dialogue Forum, we reach broad consensus on changes to the electoral system and also, for these to be introduced through legal and constitutional means. Moreover, the President’s Political Dialogue Forum must get underway with due urgency and speed, and I suggest that electoral reform be placed as the highest priority item on the agenda of the Forum, especially as this will have a direct bearing on the determination of the timeline for the election. It is not for the Interim Government to unilaterally determine the election timeline.”

Well from the outset it seems the political leaders have very little to offer especially with firm stand by the PM on the charter.

While they will be able to make submissions it would be interesting to see if they would be taken on board.

However we must applaud the new move initiated by Prime Minister and he is receiving full support not only from Fiji but also from foreign countries that care about Fiji. The British Government has welcomed moves by Fiji’s interim Prime Minister to meet with political parties.

British High Commissioner Roger Sykes in a statement released on Friday (October 17) welcomed any dialogue that was inclusive and hoped for a positive outcome.

He said: “An early return to civilian and constitutional democracy is an essential foundation for the future of Fiji and its people.”

Mr Sykes reminded the interim government that the United Kingdom maintained that Fiji should return to parliamentary democracy in March 2009 as Commodore Bainimarama had earlier promised.

“The UK stands by the statement issued by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group We remain seriously concerned by the lack of progress towards elections by March 2009 as promised to the region, the international community and the people of Fiji by the interim government.”

The United States of America firmly believes Fiji needs to return to a democratically elected government as rapidly as possible.

A release from the US Embassy said: “Consistent with the Forum Chair’s call for dialogue and engagement, the United States welcomes any discussion that leads to a practicable agreement on a way forward.”

“We are encouraged by the announcement of the meeting of political parties on October 27 to discuss an agenda and terms of reference for the proposed President’s Political Dialogue Forum.”

The onus is now on the political leaders and the government.

The political leaders after the opening address yesterday had a fair knowledge of the PM’s stand.

They know that the PM had confirmed he was the boss and already he had a vision for a united Fiji. They know it will be hard to make suggestions that will go against the way forward in the charter. They know that their submissions must be in line with what is in the charter.

Surely it would have been better for the political leaders to meet with the PM as they would get the answers of their queries.

Let us all hope yesterday’s forum will really set the pace for the way forward for Fiji.

However we must all be reminded that we’re united in wanting our return to parliamentary democracy and we all hope this forum will come up with something constructive.

The real commitment that we want to see as the way forward is for the forum to set the election time frame

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