expressed its concern about the "lack of progress made toward the restoration of civilian constitutional democracy in Fiji[and hoped Fiji would take]the necessary steps to enable the restoration of its full participation in the Commonwealth as soon as possible."
Photo: See footnote 3, below.
But Fiji has made it abundantly clear -- for over a year now -- that elections would not be held until 2014, and it has given its reasons. The most that can be hoped for is the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations, increased civilian involvement in government and more dialogue, with political dialogue starting before 2012. Why didn't CMAG push for this approach?
The CMAG "reaffirmed their solidarity with the people of Fiji." They said they were ready "to assist Fiji in appropriate ways on its path back to constitutional democracy, consistent with Commonwealth values and principles.” And they reaffirmed the Commonwealth's "continued efforts to engage in constructive dialogue with the Fiji government and other stakeholders, particularly through the Secretary-General’s Special Representative [Sir Paul Reeves], and encouraged such engagement in good faith to continue." Sounds reasonable but there was no moderation of positions since the last time they met.
What does this gobbledygook² mean?
The CMAG thinks the situation in Fiji before the 2006 Coup was an unimpaired democracy. They do not recognize any of the worthwhile policies and actions of the Fiji Government. I do not know what they mean by "solidarity with the people of Fiji." It could mean anything, or nothing. They think an early election is the way to resolve Fiji's deep-seated problems. They will only assist when elections loom. They will not relax sanctions or urge others to do so, even though they are hurting ordinary people in Fiji and making economic recovery more difficult. They will continue to follow the lead of Forum countries,led by Australia and New Zealand. There is absolutely nothing new in their statement. But to assume, as some readers have, that this was a statement separate from that of the EU that also continued its sanctions last week, is, I think, a little naive. All such statements are clearly taking their lead from the Pacific Forum that is taking its lead from Australia and New Zealand. Hear one and you have heard them all. The only country slightly out of step is the US where Hillary Clinton has signalled she wants fresh engagement with Fiji.³
Beyond Gibberish: What could have been said?
After acknowledging the "positive" legislation passed in recent months and logistical work being done by the Elections Office, CMAG could have defined more precisely what they mean by "progress" with a proposed timetable (and inducements) for each major step. For example, the immediate lifting of PER, a larger and more representative Strategic Framework for Change office, more civilian representation in Government at all levels, the commencement and conclusion of dialogue on the Constitution and electoral reform, more open discussion in the media about these issues, and finally the elections.
And what could Fiji have done? Fiji could have provided the Roadmap timetable and said that with overseas legal, advisory and financial assistance --and the lifting or progressive easing of sanctions-- Fiji should be able to bring everything forward six months (and electoral dialogue 12 months). This would result in major political dialogue starting late next year -- with public informal discussions earlier -- and the elections being held in late 2013 or early 2014.
The art of diplomacy is compromise but it takes two to tango.
¹The CMAG comprises Australia, Bangladesh, Ghana (chair), Jamaica, Maldives, Namibia, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, Vanuatu.
² Gobbledygook=bureaucratese, a kind of doublespeak. Doublespeak=meaningless speech that consists of nonsense syllables mixed with intelligible words; gibberish.
³ United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told Fiji's Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola that the US wants dialogue and partnership with Fiji.
CRUSH SABOTAGE? With mill boilers at Rarawai, Labasa and Lautoka sugar mills all breaking down within the span of only a few weeks, Permanent Secretary for Sugar Manasa Vaniqi is wondering whether sabotage is involved. He thinks the breakdowns are too common to be a consequence of old machinery.
“We are not blaming anyone but based on the reports that we have been receiving there seems to be a consistent breakdown on that particular area of the boiler. And people are not fixing it. And we are going down to the bottom of that one, the investigation is ongoing and we are waiting for the report.” The mill engineering upgrade programmes are achieving nothing.