Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Getting to the main game

Getting to the main game
By Robin Nair - Wednesday, April 01, 2009

It is most important to note that the Concluding Outcomes Statement of the political leaders meeting of March 13, 2009 is a consensus document.
However, it is important also to acknowledge that the major parties have made significant concessions at the last meeting. Each party must have their own reasons.
The way I interpret this is that the major political parties want to get to the main game (the PPDF proper) without any further loss of time through a series of interim processes occurring sparingly.
After all, the meeting of March 13 was perhaps the sixth or seventh in a line of frustrated starts and stops, starting from the Reeves first visit early last year, then the call by the NCCBF for the PPDF just to discuss electoral issues, the next visit of Reeves under the PPDF invitation, the so-called Draunimoli Talks, the October 27, 2008 meeting of the Political Leaders, two UN and Commonwealth visits regarding the PPDF to discuss the same issues, then the March 13 meeting called the LOPP, and hopefully yet another meeting scheduled for April 9, 2009.
The principal leaders appear frustrated.
One interpretation is, if they were to express any significant reservations on proposals being put to them through outcomes statements (after all drafted solely by the interim Government), it would only serve to give reasons for further delays of the independent process.
They may have adopted this strategy also to deprive the Commander of any pretext to stay in power for much longer.
They are putting their faith in the end game — in an independent process of the UN and the CW under an eminent independent chair and team leaders.
They want to get to that table as soon as possible where they believe that they will get a fair hearing without any name calling or duress.
The concessions that I have referred to include:
n And I note with great satisfaction that the membership of the civil society will be represented and I hope that this means groups like the women will be significantly represented as the women continue to be woefully represented in the political party representation so far. But the devil of the civil society representation is the detail.
I note that the parties have agreed that the Secretariat (and that means the interim government) will determine the final composition of the 15 member NGO/civil society representation.
This is undoubtedly a significant concession made by the major political parties and I believe done to show good faith.
I know that privately, this would be of major concern to the major political parties and more importantly to many of the prominent, influential and respected NGO groups.
They do not want another NCBBF. I hope that in the end, good faith will prevail and deliver good results;
n The two major political parties have also made significant concessions on membership of the PPDF from very small parties, including even new ones registered since October 27, 2008, which they argue have no proven mandate from the people;
n Thirdly, the overall role of the UN and the CW Secretariat in the time leading up to the PPDF and the PPDF itself is ambivalent in the wording of the Outcomes document.
Again, I believe this is a concession from the major political parties. There have been constant cries addressed to the concerned international and regional bodies that "we will do it our way".
What "our way" means is not clear apart from its populist appeal.
It has different meanings for different groups or individuals. It is meant to deceptively arouse a sense of nationalism.
This mantra may be also in conflict with obligations or principles subscribed by Fiji, among others in international human rights conventions, the Biketawa and Harare Declarations because there is a common, fundamental, line in the sand, universal and agreed way for governments to behave or conduct themselves.
"We will do it our way" is the same argument as the often misinterpreted populist theme of being a "Sovereign State".
There is no such thing as an absolute "sovereign state" in international law, especially in this globalised world where much of the sovereignty has been and is being conceded by states through international conventions, treaties, agreements and arrangements ; and
n Fourthly, the language regarding the timing of convening the main game, the PPDF, has been couched in ambiguous if not vague language and into the future.
The SDL Party had previously placed much emphasis on timelines.
The international community, particularly the Pacific Islands Forum, the CW and the EU have also put priority on timelines because democracy and good governance is the very heart of these organisations as embodied in the Biketawa and Harare Declarations.
Fiji is not only a signatory to these declarations but also played an active role in advocating and drafting of the principles contained in these declarations as a way of life that Fiji wanted to subscribe to on behalf of its people.
I have been asked by the media specifically, what I think of the role of the military being dropped from the agenda as proposed by the interlocutors' report after extensive consultations with political parties.
I am unable to comment except that this was a significant item that the political parties had asked us to put on the agenda.
The parties have in their wisdom possibly decided to make a concession in this regard also in order not to take an aggressive approach on this sensitive issue at this time.
They might believe that the first agenda item on the democratic experience or indeed the third agenda item on the Charter might cover the role of the military.
The role of the military has been covered extensively and usefully in the Charter and the Charter remains on the draft agenda for the PPDF.
* The views and analysis expressed in this article are exclusively those of the author and are published in this newspaper on that sole understanding.

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