CCF Letter to John Key, Incoming Chairman, Pacific Forum
Mr. Prime Minister,
Re: The Political Situation in Fiji – Critical Engagement By Pacific Forum Leaders
The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF), a Fiji based NGO, writes to seek your assistance and understanding, at a time when Fiji is at a crossroads with our people living in uncertainty.
The CCF is mandated to advocate for Human Rights, good governance and multiculturalism. We continue to steadfastly oppose the government takeover of 2006 and events which have unfolded since to suppress dissent against the actions of the Frank Bainimarama imposed government.
At the same time, CCF has taken a position of Critical Engagement with the current regime, through our initial participation in the National Council for Building a Better Fiji, a Bainimarama Government initiative. However, the CCF withdrew from the Council following the purported abrogation of the 1997 Constitution in April 2009.
Mr. Chairman, the people of Fiji need external assurances and gestures of genuine political will amongst the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum to enable democratic elections to take place and allow the peoples’ voice to be heard.
In view of the upcoming Forum leaders’ meeting, we wish to convey to you Mr. Prime Minister and incoming chair and to the members of the Forum Leaders, issues for your kind consideration pertinent to the discussion on Fiji.
Civil Society (Human Rights Coalition)
1. The CSOs in Fiji remain united in the call for the restoration of a democratically elected government.
2. Political dialogue and electoral reform prior to the election in 2014 is essential and will hopefully assist towards achieving a durable and sustainable people-based mandate for future governments in the next 15-20 years. To get this process back off the ground, and ensure that it is genuine and inclusive, it is necessary to critically engage in goodwill with the current government. The possibilities from such an
approach are evidenced through the successful Track 2 dialogue initiatives, such as Dialogue Fiji and Strengthening Capacities for Peace and Development in the Pacific (CPAD), which have been
successfully instigated with broad participation from communities, government, military officers, and civil society. Dialogue Fiji, for example, has been running for the last 24 months to facilitate the creation of a network of community leaders to continue the dialogue on issues with a focus on long term sustainable solutions. Through this process, space has been created to start linking open and inclusive
civil society dialogue to the national level.
3. A further example of positive steps taken towards dialogue has been the ‘Land & Tenant Dialogue’ organized by CCF, with participation of key government and non-government stakeholders to critically assess and discuss the Land Reforms introduced under the Lands Decree 2010. One was held in the West, Lautoka in 2010 and another planned to be convened at Labasa for the North on the 17 and 18
March this year.
4. The CSOs, while they hold different views, have a collaborative approach and share similar concerns on issues such as the Human Rights violations, imposition of the Public Emergency Regulation (PER), draconian decrees, general lack of consultation on public policies and reforms and the lack of independence in key entities including the office of the Human Rights Commission, Judiciary and
institutions that administer the rule of law and justice.
Rule by Decree
1. Most decrees have placed limitations on the powers of the courts and entrenched decision-making powers in the hands of the Executive. They seem to have been designed to remove obstacles standing in the path of its reform agenda.
2. Admittedly, some of the decrees have brought in genuine improvements, but others violate human rights and good governance principles. Some have been introduced after public consultations,
others without any or with very limited consultation.
Of particular concern are:
a. The Public Emergency Regulation which prevents meetings of more than three people without first applying for a permit from police. This is a major obstacle for the CCF in conducting its Education program as we need to apply for a permit for each planned workshop or activity.
b. The Media Industry (Development Decree) which curtails media freedom by enforcing censorship and prohibiting publication of any opposing views. This has led to self-censorship within certain media outlets as a means to prevent further scrutiny and censorship limitations.
c. The Essential National Industries (Employment) Decree which is designed to stop trade union activities in specific areas – sugar, tourism and aviation. The CCF is currently awaiting a statement
from the International Labor Organization on its conclusion on the decree after carrying out consultations in Fiji.
d. Provisions are made in each of these decrees so that they cannot be challenged in any court or tribunal in Fiji. Similar provisions are made in other legislations promulgated by the Bainimarama Government.
1. CCF believes that the Forum can play a significant and strategic role in Fiji’s return to Democratic Elections through engagement especially in the area of Political Dialogue as a precursor and the provision of technical support. You, as Chair of the Forum and Prime Minister of New Zealand, can ensure that political influences/motives/mileage is put aside and genuine will is demonstrated in how to engage with Fiji.
2. The Forum must consider creative options that will engage Fiji and Forum Leaders, extra to the MSG partnership, on regional issues of Trade, Security and Fisheries in addition to other Forum mandated
areas of cooperation.
3. The Forum should also include the Commonwealth Heads of Government through the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group to consider taking on a more active role in the solution through dialogue.
4. CCF believes that prolonged isolationist approach will not augur well for regional partnerships of which Fiji is already playing an important role through trade and Telecommunication.
We hope that the issues and concerns in this letter are given serious consideration by all the members and that the hope of the late Sir Paul Reeves in finding a Pacific Solution for Fiji is realized sooner than later.
We also convey the hope of the people of Fiji that the members consider their commitment to regional peace and security is one that will benefit the individuals and the ordinary citizens ultimately.
Reverend Akuila Yabaki
CEO – CCF
CC: Hon. Prime Minister of Tonga Hon. Prime Minister of Tuvalu Hon. Prime Minister of Nauru Hon. Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. Prime Minister of Kiribati Hon. Prime Minister of Samoa Hon. Prime Minister of Vanuatu Hon. Prime Minister of Niue Hon. Prime Minister of Marshall Islands Hon. Prime Minister of Cook Islands Hon. Prime Minister of Micronesia Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Deputy Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.