News and Comments Friday 31 August 2012
FORUM DIVIDED — CLINTON TO THE RESCUE? Nauru's Foreign Minister Dr Kieren Keke says the ongoing suspension of Fiji has divided the Pacific Islands Forum between those that are pro its return and those that are not. Fiji was suspended from the Forum in 2009 over concerns there was not a genuine commitment to elections, but Dr Keke believes that is no longer true. The 43rd Forum opened on Wednesday in Rarotonga. Ocean issues and Fiji are likely to dominate the agenda.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton leads the highest-level US inter-agency delegation in the 41-year history of the Forum. Reports have emerged that diplomatic sources say Hillary Clinton wants the Forum to readmit Fiji. She has also urged Australia and New Zealand to end its isolation of Fiji, suggesting it is giving too much opening for Chinese moves in the region. China is believed to have put US$600 million in aid and soft loans over five years into the Pacific while the US barely comes up with US$20 million a year.
making more realistic overtures towards the Bainimarama government than his predessessors and, significantly, he was elected by a wide margin (460 votes to Rev Tugaue in second place with 69 votes). The Rev. Waqairatu says the church needs to work positively with the government in the formulation of the new constitution and preparations towards the general election in 2014. He takes over from the Rev. Ame Tugaue next year.
MORE ACCOUNTABILITY FOR POLITICAL PARTIES. Soon Fiji's political parties, like those in Australia and New Zealand, will be required to divulge sources of funding.
Elections Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said, “As you may be aware, the rules pertaining to the formation or registration of political parties in Fiji is rather archaic, so what we’re looking at, for example, is to increasing the threshold of the numbers required to register or re-register political parties and whether they they will need support in all four divisions of Fiji. It is also critical that the assets and liabilities of political parties are made public.”
His mention of Fiji's four administrative divisions hints at a government preference for 2014 electorates to be based on these divisions.
SUBMISSIONS TO THE COMMISSION. Among the submissions to the Constitution Commission in Ba this week has been a call for a "reconciliation" clause to be included in the Constitution. Submitter Inayat Ali said that "the healing process was an important first step in building a better Fiji." Commissioner Professor Christina Murray agreed, saying that in South Africa, reconciliation didn't solve all problems but it contributed to solving many.
In another submission, Ratu Wiliame Ratudale Sovasova wanted the new constitution to "ensure village by-laws are introduced in every iTaukei village in the country." The Radini vanua o Vitogo, Adi Litiana Sovasova, said village by-laws were important in a traditional Fijian community because they were used by their ancestors (and the laws) set them apart from other ethnic communities in the world." The proposal has merit if the by-laws do not infringe on human rights or other laws in Fiji.
Calls for the protection of native land and Fiji to be declared a Christian state continue but Commissioner Peni Moore some says some of these submissions were withdrawn when the full protections that already exists were explained.
Khalid Ali from Ba said the constitution should be the source of all power and every public institution must derive its authority directly or indirectly from it and act in accordance with the document. All cultures, languages and religions must be treated with equal respect, the values of democracy, equality, justice and the equal treatment of men and women must be promoted. Mr Ali was also in favour of dual citizenship, and thought the state should provide land for the landless.
Other issues raised related to the social welfare assistance scheme, squatter settlements and road works and people being displaced from their homes.
There was also a submission that extramarital affairs should not be allowed. That's going to be a hard one to monitor short of the introduction of shari'a law.
ANTHONY TO BE DISCIPLINED: CHAUDHRY The initial fallout between Mahendra Chaudhry and Felix Anthony widens with this disciplinary call, and FTUC talk of a new breakaway party.
In my recent FLISLUP posting I foretold that Chaudhry was likely to "rupture" the talked of FLP, SLP UPP coalition. This happened in 2001 when the New Labour Unity Party (NLUP) split. A further split now seems likely. SDL and UPP be warned! He's a hard man to work with.