Vote of Thanks
By Rev Akuila Yabaki, CEO, CCF
The President, His Excellency, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, Interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, interim ministers, and invited distinguished guests, and ladies and gentlemen.
It gives me great pleasure to be invited to give a Vote of Thanks to his Excellency for his words of wisdom which will provide the framework for deliberations by the National Council for Building a Better Fiji. This historic event is significantly being launched on the date of Fiji’s independence.
Allow me a few minutes to share my thoughts on this proposed Charter process. The CCF was greatly concerned when another coup occurred in Fiji in December 2006. The CCF had advocated for ways in which power could be returned to a civilian government of national unity. These efforts proved to be futile.
The damaging impacts of the 1987 and 2000 coups on Fiji have been reflected in the rationale provided for the December 2006 coup. No coup can be adequately justified under any circumstances. However, at this point in our nation’s life-time, there is a serious need to re-look at problems to find solutions to move the country forward.
The CCF supports calls for a shared vision to move the country forward, and in this regard, the CCF has expressed support for the concept of building a better Fiji for all through a People’s Charter for Change and Progress.
I wish to reiterate that CCF’s support is subject to our abiding commitment to the 1997 Constitution and to constitutional change by lawful means alone. Secondly, CCF suggests that the process of dialogue should not be allowed to be seen as, or become, an alternative to the rule of law or the return of Fiji to democracy.
Third, the CCF supports the objective of the dialogue process that it should be “inclusive” and broadly representative of all ethnic and religious communities in Fiji, as well as the different political groupings. The Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party in particular should be included as members of the proposed National Council for Building a Better Fiji.
Fourth, it will be important for the success of the dialogue that all participants feel safe to express their views openly and without fear of reprisal. In order to provide this sense of security . The Interim Government needs to show respect for Freedom of Speech. We therefore suggest that the Republic of Fiji Military Forces should issue a public statement at the outset of the process, guaranteeing the safety of all participants.
Many of us believe that the answer to a more stable future is through political dialogue. The CCF further believes that the proposed process of the “charter” to be independent, is a positive feature that should not be downplayed. The onus is now on all stakeholders to take an active part, to make the process worthwhile.
The Charter process could be an ideal forum to discuss elimination of racial elements in Fiji’s electoral process. However, any changes to the Constitution must be made through Constitutional means only.
The CCF congratulates the interim government for this historic initiative, however, the CCF also emphasizes that the success of the Charter process will depend on the ability of the interim government to persuade all stakeholders to take a genuine interest and contribute wholeheartedly to the process
By the same token, the CCF is concerned that major stakeholders, such as the national Churches, have not been able to work together to heal the rifts within our society to move the country forward. It is a cause for disappointment that the Methodist Church, which has the largest number of indigenous Fijian membership, has so far been unable to contribute to reconciliation exercises which involves working with other religious and ethnic groups. However, individual Methodists, such as myself have been able to contribute within our own capacities.
The Interim Government needs to take on a humble approach, and identify intermediaries who can encourage, even those who have publicly opposed the NCBBF, to come forward and become part of the process.
Finally, CCF hopes that the Charter process will provide a forum whereby the hurts inflicted from past coups can be dealt with in an honest and sincere way, so that we can move ahead as a healthy nation.
With these words, I take great pleasure in thanking all those present here today to witness the historic launch of the National Council for Building a Better Fiji. I thank you all for your kind attention this few minutes.
May Fiji persevere in finding home grown solutions that will best serve our nation in the 21st century.