Tuesday, May 29, 2012

PM Qarase Respond to Untutored Crosbie Walsh Opinion on Fiji

RESPONSE TO PROFESSOR CROSBIE WALSH
by Laisenia Qarase

Laisenia Qarase

The “Opinion” article titled “OBSTRUCTION” (Fiji Sun - 27/5/12) by Prof. Crosbie Walsh cannot go unchallenged. Prof. Walsh’s claim that Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry and I intend to obstruct every move Government takes along the road to elections in 2014 is absurd. I cannot speak for Mr. Chaudhry but as far as I am concerned I would like the elections to be held sooner than 2014.

It is not my intention to obstruct the election or the constitution-making processes set in motion by the Government. Government rules by Decrees. It does what it wants to do-you cannot obstruct it. But as leader of the SDL Party who won the 2006 elections it is my duty to point out what many of us believe are flaws in the election and constitution-making processes now being implemented. As a nation we must ensure that these processes are credible and fair to the people of Fiji and to the international community.

Sure, the SDL Party wants to be heard by the Constitution Commission. But we want an independent Commission. It is important that the constitution consultation processes are inclusive, participatory, free, fair and transparent. The SDL Party will not be satisfied simply with the “tinkering of the 1997 Constitution”. The Party would like to see significant amendments to that document.

The SDL Party would like to see an independent body handling the voter registration and indeed the entire election process. That body should be the independent office of the Supervisor of Elections. The 2014 elections will not be the first for Fiji. All previous elections have been carried out by the Supervisor of Elections. There is no reason why the 2014 elections cannot be handled in the same way, with assistance from outside experts and the large Civil Service that we have.

Prof. Walsh is quite wrong when he said that “for the past five years they (Chaudhry and Qarase) have seldom missed an opportunity to snipe at Government, and they have done this without putting forward a single helpful suggestion on how Fiji is to move forward - - -“. Prof. Walsh should know that from 10th April, 2009 to early this year our freedom of speech was suppressed by the Public Emergency Regulations (PER), so there was little opportunity to “snipe” at Government. Even now that freedom of speech remains elusive.

The SDL Party’s “helpful suggestion” to move the country forward was for the Government to accept and implement the suggestion by the Fiji Court of Appeal in delivering judgment in the case L. Qarase & others vs J.V. Bainimarama & others on 9th April, 2009. If that was done Fiji would be well on the way to full recovery.

Contrary to what Prof. Walsh stated the Tolerance and Reconciliation Bill (TRB) and the Qoliqoli Bill were not ethnic legislation. The TRB was for everyone involved in the 2000 coup. The Bill provided an opportunity for people to confess their crimes, repent of their “sins” and ask for forgiveness from their victims. The Bill provided an opportunity for victims to forgive those who committed crimes against them. Penalties meted out by the Courts for crimes committed may be reduced under certain circumstances. The Bill was never intended to “absolve all those responsible for the Speight coup”.

The Qoliqoli Bill was not about race. The main purpose was to transfer ownership of the Qoliqoli to indigenous Fijians who have traditional rights over them. This is allowed under the UN Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Fiji is a party to this Convention. The claim by Prof. Walsh that the Bill “would have set mataqali against each other and denied non-iTaukei access to beaches - - - etc” is absolute rubbish. The Bill would have clearly established the rights of both the owners and users of the resource. You may be interested to know that some Aboriginal tribes of Australia have been granted ownership rights to their Qoliqoli covering 7,000km of coastline in northern Australia.
Crosbie Walsh



Prof. Walsh, I want you to know that my freedom is very much restricted contrary to what you claim. You enjoy more freedom in Fiji than I. Security personnel for example maintain surveillance over my movements; my freedom of speech etc is severely restricted; my basic human rights have been violated. For example, I have not received one cent of my pension entitlement since the coup on 5th December, 2006. My right to pension that I have earned has been totally denied.
I am certain that your wish will be granted Prof. Walsh! God will indeed help Fiji when the SDL Party is returned to power!
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