At UN, Fijian regime asks critics to have patience during reform period

Gee Vore, looks like the UN, which is accustomed to dealing with third-rate tin pot dictators, will only judge you by your actions, rather than take you at your word.  That’s gotta hurt. 

26 September 2009, un.org – International critics of the current regime in Fiji, which came to power after a coup in 2006, need to show patience as political and constitutional reforms are introduced to overcome years of “mismanagement, corruption and nepotism,” the country’s Prime Minister told the General Assembly today.

In an address to the fourth day of the Assembly’s annual General Debate, Commodore Josaia Bainimarama said the abrogation of the Fijian constitution in May this year – a move sharply criticized by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council and UN human rights experts – had been a necessary step to fill a legal vacuum created by an earlier court ruling.

Mr. Bainimarama said he has since unveiled a road map to take Fiji to a new constitution by September 2013 with elections scheduled for a year after that.

“The basis for the new constitution will be the ideals and principles formulated by the People’s Charter for Change and Progress, a document prepared following widespread consultation with, and input from, the people of Fiji,” he said.

Consultations will be held “with all the ordinary citizens of our country as well as civil society groups,” he added, noting that they will focus on such issues as the size of a new parliament, the term of office of a government and the sustainability of a bicameral parliament.

Mr. Bainimarama said critics of the long timetable for the new constitution and democratic elections did not appreciate Fiji’s “peculiar” history.

“Our post-colonial period has been punctuated with political instability,” he said. “On each occasion that a new government is voted into power, the old elite which benefited financially from the previous established government has been able to successfully destabilize the government and replace it with its own supporters and representatives.”

Mr. Bainimarama said Fijians had already experienced too many “Band-Aid” solutions that did not work in the long term.

“Fiji has suffered more than 20 years of mismanagement, corruption and nepotism. Our infrastructure, our judicial system and our systems of accountability have all remained under-developed and unproductive. Many of our finest brains have left the country to migrate because they could see no future in a country governed by ethno-nationalism, corruption and greed.

“In order to ensure that democracy has a real chance of survival in Fiji’s future, serious and principled reforms must be implemented to build roads, institutions and values… The way of the old elite must never triumph again.”

Voicing dismay that Fiji’s neighbours “have shown a surprising lack of understanding and disregard” of his country’s situation, the Prime Minister urged them to show patience.

He also expressed disappointment at “what appears to be a unilateral decision on the part of the United Nations to debar our country from any new peacekeeping operations. To this day, we have not been able to receive a clear and satisfactory reply on this matter from the United Nations. I express the hope that the United Nations will deal equitably and fairly with troop-contributing countries.”

Security Council, UN rights experts urge restoration of constitutional law in Fiji

20 April 2009 – The Security Council and two human rights experts today joined Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and other United Nations figures in voicing deep concern over the abrogation of Fiji’s constitution, the sacking of its judiciary and the imposition of press restrictions.

The South Pacific archipelago’s unelected executive fired the judges, set a longer time frame for parliamentary election and declared a public emergency on 10 April, following a court ruling that declared the interim leadership unconstitutional.

“It is a step backwards and needs restoration of the democracy process that Fiji has been undertaking, in cooperation with regional and international partners as well as the United Nations,” Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, which holds the April presidency of the Security Council, told the press this afternoon.

Supporting Mr. Ban’s approach to the matter, members of the Council expressed hope that Fiji will resume “steadfast” progress towards democracy and that fair elections will be held at the soonest possible time.

The island chain has suffered prolonged internal tensions between its indigenous Fijian and Indo-Fijian communities, and had four coups since 1987. Commodore Josaia V. Bainimarama, who serves as Prime Minister, came to power in a coup in December 2006, sparking criticism from the UN at the time.

Also today, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, strongly condemned the suspension of rights in Fiji.

They urged Fiji’s authorities to restore the rule of law by immediately reinstating the judiciary and ending the restrictions placed on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

“The respect of the independence of the judiciary and freedom of expression are fundamental pillars of the rule of law and democracy,” said the joint statement of the two experts, who report to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council in an independent and unpaid capacity.

“Judges play a fundamental role in protecting human rights during states of emergency. It is crucial that the judiciary is immediately re-established,” said Mr. Despouy, maintaining that such states of emergency must be strictly limited.

He added that there have been deportations of foreign journalists and arbitrary arrests of others, with yet others summoned by the Ministry of information and warned to restrict the content of their reporting. “Special Procedures of the United Nations Human Rights Council as well as other neutral international observers should be allowed to visit the country in order to ensure the respect of the human rights of the population.”

He has requested on several occasions that the Interim Government of Fiji allow him to undertake an official visit to the country, with no response as yet.

Fiji: UNESCO chief voices concern over restrictions on press freedom

17 April 2009 – The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom today voiced grave concern over the crackdown on the media in Fiji after the country’s leadership scrapped its Constitution and declared a state of emergency last week.

According to new regulations in the South Pacific archipelago nation, editors are not allowed to publish or broadcast any material that shows the military in an unfavourable light, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said in a press release.

UNESCO said that sensitive stories must also be approved by Government officials, and publication and media organizations ignoring these directives may be shut down.

“I am gravely concerned about press freedom in Fiji,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, echoing earlier remarks made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

Urging the authorities to allow open debate to find lasting solutions to the country’s difficulties, Mr. Matsuura stressed that the basic right to “freedom of expression, which underpins press freedom, is essential for democracy, good governance and rule of law.”

He warned that “depriving people of news and information about events that affect them only breeds fear and suspicions. Such measures will not promote a solution to the nation’s social and political problems.”

A state of emergency was issued by President Ratu Josefa Iloilovatu Uluivuda on 10 April. As a result, all judges and magistrates were removed, along with others who had been appointed under the Constitution.

The move came on the heels of the 9 April Court of Appeals ruling that the appointment of the Interim Government by the President following the 2006 coup was illegal. In its decision, the Court also advised Mr. Iloilovatu Uluivuda to appoint a neutral caretaker as Prime Minister to aid in holding parliamentary elections.

God bless Fiji

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