PM'S ADDRESS TO THE 66th SESSION OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMPLY

Ed. Note.  This is a wide-ranging report on Fiji's foreign and domestic affairs, and a useful summary of events over the past 12 or so months and future intentions.  I have underlined key passages to assist  skimming and reflection. -- Croz

NEW YORK· 23 September 2011
 Source: No:1806/MOI  

The President of the United Nations General Assembly; Mr. Secretary-General; Distinguished Colleagues; Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen. 

Ni sa bula vinaka and warm greetings to you all from the Government and people of Fiji.
May I take this opportunity Mr. President, to congratulate you on your election to the Presidency of the General Assembly's 66th Session, and pay tribute to your predecessor, His Excellency Dr. Joseph Deiss.

This year, it was my honour to open new Fijian Missions in both Indonesia and South Africa. The Fiji High Commission in Pretoria is our first diplomatic mission on the continent of Africa and we see it as a gateway to that great continent. Our new Embassy in Jakarta is intended to strengthen our warm fraternal relations with Indonesia. In the same spirit, I journey next week to Brazil to open Fiji's first Embassy on the South American continent.

In May this year, Mr President, Fiji had the privilege of being admitted to membership of the Non-Aligned Movement. We have pledged to play our full part in the Movement's activities, particularly in the area of South-South Cooperation and Sustainable Development.

These positive developments complement the Fijian Government's "Look North Policy" and our intention to expand relations with non-traditional partners. We believe such expansion of outlook is essential to our national development and our full participation in Fiji's global rights and responsibilities. Here at the United Nations, we are active members of the Asia-Pacific Group, and along with our fellow Pacific Small Island Developing States, we greatly appreciate the support given to us by the members of this regional group.

Fiji's guiding document, the People's Charter for Change, Peace and Progress, has given our nation the task of enhancing Fiji's international relations, both bilaterally and multi-laterally. 

In pursuit of this task, since the beginning of last year, Fiji has formalized diplomatic relations with 37 countries, bringing to a total of 114 the number of countries with which Fiji has formal diplomatic relations. Fiji is firmly on the path of formalizing our diplomatic relations with all member States of the United Nations.

Fiji remains steadfastly committed to the work of the United Nations in safeguarding world peace, including all international counter-terrorism efforts.

In 2006, Fiji voted in favour of the preparation of a robust Arms Trade Treaty and we commend all those who have shown commitment to preparing this Treaty for signature in 2012.

Fiji's commitment to the Charter of the United Nations remains steadfast. Our tradition of service in the blue helmets of UN Peacekeeping began in 1978 in Lebanon with UNIFIL, in which the Fijian battalion served for 24 years. In 1982, when the Multinational Force and Observers were deployed as peacekeepers in Sinai, a Fijian battalion was amongst them and has remained there to this day.

In Iraq, the United Nations Guard Unit of UNAMI has been manned by Fijians since 2004. With the planned withdrawal of the US Forces from Iraq this year, the United Nations saw fit to increase the size of its UNAMI Guard Unit, and after due process Fiji was selected to provide the extra personnel. We thank the United Nations for the confidence shown in our servicemen and servicewomen.

In addition, Mr. President, Fijian servicemen and servicewomen are currently stationed in Peacekeeping Missions in South Sudan, Abyei, Darfur, Liberia and Timor Leste. I pause here, Mr President, to profess my country's recognition and respect for the selfless service given by UN Peacekeepers in the troubled regions of our world, and to pay tribute to those of them who made the ultimate sacrifice.

Mr. President, Fiji is currently the chair of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the MSG, whose membership includes Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and the FLNKS of New Caledonia. This year, the MSG was pleased to admit Indonesia and Timor Leste to Observer status. Fiji wishes to commend the work of our brother MSG Missions at the United Nations in bringing Melanesian concerns to the attention of the UN Special Political and Decolonisation Committee.

Through its membership of the Decolonisation Committee, Fiji will continue to call for the Committee to conduct effective monitoring and assessment of the progress of New Caledonia's Noumea Accord. In this regard, we would welcome the establishment of arrangements for closer co-operation and information-sharing between the UN Secretariat and the MSG Secretariat. We also express our gratitude to the Government of France for its cooperation and assistance to this end.

Mr. President, the United Nations Millennium Development Goals. (MDG) continue to inspire our economic development efforts. In Fiji, we have concentrated our focus on national infrastructure development under our Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development.

Under this Roadmap, priority has been given to rural electrification expansion, access to clean water, and to national roading development. This focus is with the view to create the bedrock required for sustainable economic growth.

Since the reform of Fiji's laws to bring them in line with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child

We are experiencing increasing participation by women in local decision making bodies, thereby empowering rural women, increased enrolment of women and girls in tertiary education, gender mainstreaming within the Government system, and increased welfare assistance provision to the marginalized, including single mothers.

The Domestic Violence Decree, which came into effect last year is now being effectively implemented by the law enforcement agencies in conjunction with civil society groups. Its regime of restraining orders is intended to deter perpetrators of family violence from inflicting further violence, whilst allowing families to remain together in peace. This Decree recognizes the difficulty experienced by women and children in gaining access to the justice system, because of family, community, cultural and attitudinal barriers.

In order to address the MDG's HIV/AIDS goal, the Fijian Government approved a new law this year that, amongst other things, safeguards the privacy and rights of persons infected or affected by HIV. The HIV/AIDS Decree is based on the United Nations International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS, and on the Declaration of Commitment to a human rights based approach to dealing with the epidemic. The Decree has been acknowledged as one of the most progressive HIV laws in the world.

Fiji participated in and was represented by our Head of State, H.E. Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, at the HIV/AIDS High Level Meeting that was held in this hall in August this year. In addition to the HIV/AIDS Decree, Fiji this year passed the Mental Health Decree, a Decree based on WHO guidelines on best practice for mental patients; and the Child Welfare Decree which creates a system that requires mandatory reporting of child abuse by doctors, police officers and lawyers to the Ministry of Social Welfare.

Fiji is determined to provide to all Fijians enlightened and progressive laws on health care, access to health services and justice. A large percentage of Fiji's population is at risk of contracting Non Communicable Disease (NCD), or lifestyle disease, including cardiovascular or cancerous diseases.

We welcome the high level commitment of the international community to address this crisis and the successful completion of the High Level Meeting on NCDs this week. The Fijian Government has taken key actions to address NCD issues, including being the first country to sign and ratify the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. It is also one of the first countries to pilot the salt reduction program.

Mr. President, the economic reforms undertaken by the Fijian Government have produced positive mid-term results. Last month, we were heartened to learn that Fiji's economic standing was assessed at a higher level by the credit-rating agency of Standard & Poor's. This improved rating is also attributed to the strong support of all our development partners, including the private sector, who have worked closely with the Fijian Government. I wish to take this opportunity to thank them for their co-operation, assistance and collaboration.

As a Small Island Developing State or SIDS vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, Fiji has a strong desire to see positive and concrete outcomes achieved at the UNFCCC meeting in Durban later this year. We hold firm to the hope of a successful outcome from the UNFCCC negotiations. 

However, the urgency of the situation for many small islands and low lying coastal States, and the real threat posed by sea level rise, prompted the Pacific SIDS to draw the attention of the UN Security Council to the security implications of climate change. Fiji hopes that the Presidential Declaration adopted by the Council in July this year, at the end of the open debate on the security implications of climate change, will enable the Council to look further into the plight of those countries that are most at risk of losing their territory to climate change.

Mr President, as the first signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Fiji has kept its oceanic obligations at the core of its foreign policy.

With the increasing interest in seabed mining and to avoid a 'race to the bottom' by countries wishing to exploit the untapped mineral resources on the ocean floor, it is imperative that the International Seabed Authority remains vigilant in safeguarding the environmental integrity of the world's seabed.

Fiji has invested much time and resources to responsible consideration of seabed mining and thus welcomes the Advisory Opinion of the Seabed Disputes Chamber on the responsibilities and obligations of State parties with regards to seabed mining. We also welcome the decision by the Council of the International Seabed Authority in approving the application by Tonga and Nauru for the exploration of polymetallic nodules in the Mid-East Pacific Ocean. We see the Pacific Small Island Developing States as legitimate participants in this oceanic resource.

The Pacific Ocean is the mainstay of our country's livelihood, our food security and our economy. Fiji views the Blue Economy as an essential element of the Green Economy. In this regard, we consider the 2012 Rio de Janeiro UN Conference on Sustainable Development critical to protecting this economy.

Mr. President, since I last addressed the United Nations General Assembly, Fijians have been benefitting from the nation's Strategic Framework for Change. This Framework set in place the roadmap that takes Fiji to the holding of national elections by September 2014.
Under the provisions of the roadmap, from September next year until 2013, our Nation must turn its attention to the development of a new constitution premised along the laudable principles set out in the People's charter for Peace, Change and Progress.

The roadmap clearly states that in the process, the new Fijian Constitution must do away with racial categorisation and discrimination; so that for the first time in Fiji's history, Fijians will go to Elections in 2014 on the basis of common and equal suffrage. This will be real progress. 

It will undo decades of undemocratic laws and policies inherited from our colonial past and entrenched in past Constitutions, which have impeded our nation's progress. This is a determined move to create a society based on substantive equality and justice, and respect for the dignity of all Fijians.

As we enter this formative two-year period in Fiji's history, we recognise that inclusiveness will be an essential part of the process in the formulation of the new Constitution. We also recognise our national responsibility at all times to ensure that the Nation's overall peace, well-being and sustainable economic development must prevail over divisive factional interests. The Fijian nation will prevail, and we have every confidence that our beloved country has the home-grown ability to pull itself up by its own bootstraps.

In this respect Mr. President I am happy to inform this august gathering that electronic registration of voters for the national elections is scheduled to commence in January of next year.

Mr President, we trust that our trading and development partners, friends, old and new, will give us the understanding, the space, and the assistance we need to ensure that true and sustainable democracy can take root in Fiji. In this regard, we have taken great heart from recent assurances of support from many of our bilateral and multilateral friends, not least of which is the United Nations.

Mr. President, once again my congratulations on your election and best wishes for a productive 66th Session of the General Assembly.

I thank you.

Comments

sara'ssista said…
Noble words from the Fijian dictator, no mention of racial equity in the armed forces?of course no. Do as we say.....
Oh, come on! said…
God I'm sick of all these idiots going on about racial equality in the armed forces. Since when have the bloody kai idia been interested in military careers? We've had lots of Rotumans ( Konrote ) and kailoma and a smattering of Indo-Fijians like Mohammed Aziz. But most kai idia simply aren't interested and in any event, the i'taukei love military careers and are good soldiers. End of story. Why don't you just buzz off sara'ssista if you don't have anything sensible to say. This point is absurd. It's like saying not enough i'taukei have shops in Cumming Street or sell peanuts at the bus station. Wanna make a big thing about that? Come to think of it, the "pro-democracy" crowd don't have anything really sensible to contribute nowadays. Missed the boat. Get with the program, ssista or just enjoy your new lives in NZ and Oz. The best coup 4.5 can offer this weekend is some non-event beat-up about FB and Gibson guitars. Who gives a ripe Vudi? Boring.
Anonymous said…
@ sara'ssista

There you go again! Why dont yo go read the book 'Broken Waves' by Fiji Indian author Professor Brij Lal, In it he explains why Indians in Fiji do not see the military as being a lucrative career and why they dont volunteer for military service in the same number that native Fijians do. Brij Lal was virtually apologising for the Indian failure to volunteer for war service in Fiji during WW2 and in subsequent conflicts.

The fact is (and you may not like this) the racial make up of the military in Fiji is in direct proportion to the numbers of people (or ethic groups) who volunteer for military service in the first place.

Next time you in Fiji, go and see for yourself the ethnic make up of people who go attend or line up outside recruiting offices in Fiji.

How many Fiji Indian soldiers have given their lives in the Fiji military? How many Fiji Indians have joined up and given their lives serving in the British Army? Why arent they joining up in the British Army in the same numbers as ethnic Fijians?

You will find there are more deeper sociological reasons which explain the Fiji Indian attitude to military service rather than the simplistic and racially exclusivist explanation you are trying to peddle.

Glib comments like the one you make above indicate intellectual laziness and an arrogance that stems from ignorance of the facts.
Anonymous said…
Why does Fiji need an Army? It was created for robbing political power when the God's chosen chiefs and nationalists lost the election. It served its purpose but eventually turned against those that were riding on its back. Now those that benefitted from it are crying that the Army should go back to the barracks and democracy must be restored. You hypocrites! Taste the medicine that you shoved down the throats of others. Don't feel sorry for yourselves - realize what you did to others!
sara'ssista said…
Oh dear, so while thus regime is 'promoting' racial equality it's defenders are clearly wanting to keen the 'club' Fijian, this is by design. What garbage to allege that Indians are not choosing the military, they don't have the choice because it is very very firmly indigenous, and very unwelcome and what a laughable idea that they are representative of Fijian ethnic makeup. There is not in excess of thirty percent Indian in the military nor are there notable amounts of other minorities. There are no programs or plans to address this, as this regime would have been using the fiji sun rag to tell everyone. but I note the quick defense of the military, who could u be I wonder? Maybe someone on the UN gravy train?
Anonymous said…
@ Why Does Fiji Need an Army?

Lets be correct here. The military per se was not created for 'robbing political power'. The taking of political power in 1987 was led by politicised elements within the military led by Rambo (Rabuka)who was supported by the Methodist Church,the Great Council of Chiefs (or 'Thieves') and the bureaucracy. There was also a professional element within the military at that time who were against the actions of Rabuka and who wished to stay loyal to their oath. Colonel Sanday was one of these guys. There were others who supported him but once Ratu Mara threw in his lot with Rambo and the 'arsonists', the strident ethnonationalists that Rambo represented, and now supported by Ratu mara, eventually won the day. That is now history.

As you know, Rambo has now conceded that his intervention was costly and morally wrong. He has publicly apologised for his actions and has sought atonement from those he has wronged eg Bavadra as well as his superiors in the military at the time viz. Nailatikau & Sanday etc.

But I do agree with you that those officers who benefitted most from Rambo's actions (Baledroka, Roko Ului etc)have, in the light of Frank's intervention and his push for a more equitable political system in Fiji (as opposed to the previous model that marginalised ethnic minorities) are now crying foul coz Frank has removed their snouts from the trough.

I also agree with you that these guys deserve the taste of their own medicine that they dished out to others pre Dec 2006.
Reporting from the Frontline - where it c ounts! said…
Oh come on! Come on!!

Could not agree with you more. The military forces in Fiji should maybe now look towards Israel. A nation with on-going existential threats. Ethnicity is not the sole issue: gender ia equally important. If women in Fiji had military training - as they do compulsorily in Israel - do you think for one minute that we would suffer the level of domestic violence and gender inequality that we do? Of course not! Women fight alongside men: they keep the peace alonside men. They handle a gun alongside men and then......they join CNN. Just have a look at how many CNN frontline journalists are former Israeli Defence Force-trained. No nonsense: absolutely the equal of any man and they look good and sound good too. Nothing is beyond the capacity of women who are trained and given equal responsibility and respect through especially in the security of their country. Then they have the capacity to assist other countries find freedom by reporting from the front : where it counts. Take a look at the Indian Government's all female Peace-keeping Battalion now deployed in West Africa. This might suggest that in India, the world's largest democracy, Indian women are keen and able to be recruited for military service? Democracy and Freedom must be won: they do not drop out-of-the-sky at will!
Anonymous said…
Who is going to bell the cat? Its too late. The Army has now inflitrated in every sphere of Government and its institutions and the problem is that any democratically elected Government will have to live under its shadows. That ominous threat will always exist and periodical forays by the military cannot be excluded. However, it need not be blamed but the failure of the political leaders, chiefs and the Methodist Church that used the Army to carryout their agenda. The Army has tasted power and it has the experience and proven ability to wrench power and Fiji needs to deal with this sensitive issue, ensuring that this threat does not exist in the future. However, it must not be discounted that the Army has liberated Fiji from the scourge of chiefs, the Methodist Church and the racist politicians. No elected Govt could have done it!
Regarding military training of women, it would take domestic violence to another level as they would be a grave threat to their kava-soaked husbands. There would be loss of lives and limbs when they return, incapicitated in their ability to mount a credible defence!
Anonymous said…
@ sara'sissta

Why waste your time and resources on 'programs and plans' on getting Fiji Indians to join the military when history has proven that they are not interested in serving, even when Fiji was under threat of invasion in 1943?

What value would they add to the military, other than satisfying your political ideals about ethnic parity?

As another poster has pointed out, why not also insist on ethnic parity in the peanut sellers at Suva market, or the shopowners in Cummings Street? What about the 'mitai' sellers at Nausori market?

I go back to my original question: why isnt he British Army recruting Fiji Indians in the same numbers as indigenous Fijians? Does that mean that the British Army also has a racially skewered recruitment policy?

Finally, no I am not on the 'UN gravy train'. I am a secondary schoolteacher in Fiji. What about yiu?
sister saras said…
@ sara'sissta
Indians were brought to Fiji to work on cane farms for OZ CSR company. The Indian businessmen followed later. Should there be a need for military personnel from India, there are heaps and heaps of them. You are just a plain ignorant person playing the now trashed race card. Go to C4.5 for rubbish like this. Every Fiji citizen is now called "Fijian", and guess what, our hon. PM said today that the Fijian nation will prevail, and prevail it will regardless, under the able guidance of Frank.
Anonymous said…
Fiji Indian leaders placed a stop on Indians joing the military and a massive campaign influenced by the anti-British sentiment in Indian pepetrated the Fijian shores. The notable culprit are the Maha Sangh and in particular Indian's most revered leader AD Patel and his South Indian side kick Swami Rudranand.

Indians in Fiji supported the war effort nevertheless but those who did were hounded by the community. In the nutshell, Indians in Fiji do now want to join the army becauyse Indian parents want their kids to be professionals or blue collar workers and death and destruction are simply not part of their cultural makeup.

In fact in India only a certain caste make up the military cadre there indicating that soldiering is confined to a certain social group.

So it is a waste of time trying to establish any form of quota for Indo-Fijian intake. Similar quota for the national rugby team will not work either.
sara'ssista said…
How many peanut sellers or shop owners have taken over the elected government at gunpoint? Secondary school teacher, where were u marching up Cummings street demanding a military takeover prior to this regime given u are so supportive. It still amzes me how many people who support this regime, didn't appear to have a groundswell of support to commit treason in 2006 , but now are cheerleaders for thugs in a militocracy, thanks for that, and now see what happens when th next elected government decides to reform the military or god forbid , scrutinize their budget and pays... U see what happens.
Anonymous said…
@ sara'ssista

Why would I waste my time marching up Cummings Street?

You miss the point. Qarase failed to provide a unifying for Fiji. His Affirmative Action polices was rejoicefully greeted by ethn-nationalists who had been radicalised by the Methodist Church leadership (viz, Lasaro & Kanailagi etc).

Under Qarase, ethnic minorities were disillusioned about the value of democracy. Indians were raped and their properties desecrated. I guess you would have been applauding from the centrally-heated home in Epsom or somewhere in the Manukau district - whilst I was, according to you, marching up Cummings Street. Why would I do that....except to demand more dahl and roti at the (sadly) now closed 'Fiji Lodge'....mind yu we have found its equivalent at "Tapa's" in Nadi. next time you in Fiji, go try their 'suruwa' uncivilised chicken. Set saraga, kemuni!
sara'ssista said…
i didn't miss the point at all, at least under the Qarase government, however flawed, you had the right to assemble and speak openly about your general unhappiness. and newspapers gleefully printed their investigative stories on government scams, I didn't see your letters to the editor detailing your unhappiness...perhaps like most locals you moaned and did precisely nothing but moan around the kava bowl.

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