CCF STATEMENT ON INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, 2007
Human Rights provide a foundation for building a just and peaceful world.
Every human being on the planet has the right to dignity, respect and freedom – whatever their race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, language , religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, wealth or status.
On 10th December 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This has been translated into 300 languages and dialect. As far as I know this is not the case in Fiji yet.
Unfortunately unlike the US Constitution or the European Convention on Human Rights, the declaration has no legal force.
World Human Rights Day is a day when we reflect how lucky we are to have our rights enshrined in a UN Declaration, and to pledge to do something for many people across the world who are denied these rights.
REASONS FOR CCF SUPPORT FOR PEOPLE’S CHARTER FOR BUILDING A BETTER FIJI
We note at the outset that the issue of legality of the removal of the SDL led multiparty government is still to be decided by the Court. The Court judgment will have a bearing on the status of this process of consultation, especially if the ruling is against the interim government. CCF will review its decision to support this initiative at that time. Nevertheless, the reasons why CCF will seriously consider supporting this initiative now are these:
LESSONS OF PAST COUPS
We need to learn the lessons from the 1987, 2000 and 2006 coups. The first lessons are that the eradication of the coup culture through genuine reconciliation and addressing national consensus building has never been done before. These did not happen after elections and return to Parliamentary democracy in 1991 and 2001. There were some reconciliation initiatives by the post coup regimes in 1987 and 2000 but these did not attempt to address the underlying causes of the three coups. The initiatives were regarded by the victims as insincere political exercises aimed at justification of and acceptance of the coup.
It does not exclude the victims but invites their participation. This was not the case after the coups of 1987 and 2000. In the case of the Deuba Accords of October 1987, the mistake there was the exclusion of the RFMF from the process which resulted in the 2nd coup that took Fiji out of the Commonwealth.
The second lesson is that the regime wants to uphold the Constitution and does not include abrogation of it as necessary for the agenda of changes it wants to promote. The beneficiaries of the 1987 coup and 2000 coup either abrogated or supported abrogation and planned to introduce a new Constitution. They also preferred to impose a change agenda on the people of Fiji.
Thirdly, the interim government seems to want its agenda for change to be subject to broad public consultation which denotes an openness to get ideas from the public. In other words the initiative wants as broad public support as possible for a programme of short and long term changes.
Fourthly, the objective of the Way Forward is to promote a vision of a democratically tolerant and equal society that validates the position of all communities as belonging to Fiji. It is not based on ethno nationalistic attitude that regards and privileges one community over others as the way forward for Fiji. In other words it is not racist in its approach. Its vision is consistent with the Vision of the 1997 Constitution.
Fifthly, the interim government regards the addressing of the serious causes of conflicts in this country as a matter of urgency and wants the process to begin now rather than waiting until after the General Election
The Interim Administration will continue to be criticised on the grounds that you do not have a mandate to initiate such wide ranging changes to our system of government and policies. This is a strong and indeed valid criticism. But if we wait until the General Election, a government with its own mandate that is narrowly ethnicist, that is racially divisive and vengeful, may return to power and we would be back to square one with the possibility of another coup. This scenario must be avoided.
Every effort must be made by the Interim government to persuade the leaders of SDL to be part of the Way Forward, even if this means offering them significant representations on the proposed National Council and its six task teams. This could involve asking potential overseas support partners such as Australia, New Zealand, the European Union/ACP Secretariat, and the Pacific Forum Foreign Ministers to help persuade the SDL to be part of this process.
The third reason CCF supports this initiative is because it considers that this consultation process consistent with the essential elements of the Cotonou Agreement that obligates ACP countries to seriously involve NGOs in political dialogue and contributions to the development process.
The CCF will make efforts within our means to encourage NGOs to participate in this process.
POSSIBLE CCF ROLE
Although the paper “Building a Better Fiji for All”, wants active NGO participation, it does not recognize that most NGOs, including CCF, are not in a position to fulfil this expectation, unless we are adequately resourced to participate. NGOs should be compensated for the time they are expected to devote to this process, especially to the National Task Force Teams, Workshops and Focus Groups.
With our experience of organising workshops over the years we feel we can take significant roles in some of the National Task Force Teams and the “National Council for A Better Fiji” CCF is interested in the Good Governance Task Teams and also for NTT 4, 5 and 6, in co-operation with the Technical Secretariat and Parliamentary Support Staff. We are not in a position to do these tasks voluntarily. With our experience of organizing workshops over the years we feel we can take significant roles in some of the National Task Force Teams and the “National Council for A Better Fiji.”
Invite SDL Participation
Every effort should be made to ensure that representatives of all significant political parties are represented in the National Council for A Better Fiji. We understand that the SDL Party has decided not to participate because they object to the significant role of the Interim Government in the structure of this process and also because they regard it as illegal.
We believe a meeting with the leader of the SDL Party, Laisenia Qarase and his colleagues should be arranged and this proposal be discussed directly between them and representatives from the Interim Government Cabinet. This meeting should occur before the National Council and Task team membership are confirmed.
It is important that the Interim Government make a serious gesture of reconciliation with SDL. The Interim Government should publicly pursue rapprochement with SDL.
Independence of the Way Forward Process
It is important that the Way Forward Council should appear to be as independent as possible even though IG has initiated the launching this initiative it should be committed to accept all recommendations of the report of the National Council for Better Fiji that are supported by most of the participants. That you will not reject the Report later if you do not agree with some recommendations in the Report, or the Charter for the Way Forward.
New 7th Task Team
The way forward proposal is deficient in not having a Task Team to review the Roles of the RFMF and police in the future. These are the coercive arms of the state that have been used in the past to support the overthrow of democratically elected government. A Times Magazine issue of early January 2007 said this coup is the coup to end all coups.
The National Council for a Better Fiji should be able to examine the recent history of the RFMF and Police and make recommendations for improvement of legislations, regulations, conduct and practice. This should include a commitment in the Charter for the Way Forward and agreed to by the present RFMF Command, to withdraw from political intervention in the state and not to organise or support any future coups against democratically elected government. CCF will support representation by some of your senior RFMF officers and navy to the above proposed 7th Task Team and indeed others, because we believe the coup leaders should be part of decision making and not left out of the process as this can be taken as excuse not to support the outcome.
Human Rights provide a foundation for building a just and peaceful world.
Therefore for these reasons set out above that CCF believe that whilst acknowledging the illegality of the December 5th, 2006, we should participate in the process of the People’s Charter.
Rev. Akuila Yabaki