FLP sent the following letter to Commodore Bainimarama in November 2009 when the regime called for expressions of interest from those interested in attending the National Dialogue Forum. Labour said the repressive climate under the PER was not conducive to free and open discussions in a consultative constitutional forum:
17 November 2009
Commodore JV Bainimarama
Interim Prime Minister
Prime Minister’s Office
Dear Prime Minister
re: National Dialogue for Fiji’s Future
We refer to the interim government’s advertisement in the Fiji Sun (Saturday 14 November 2009) calling for expressions of interest from people interested in attending a National Dialogue Forum (NDF) which is being promoted as a prelude to the consultative constitutional forum to be convened in September 2012.
We welcome the initiative to hold national dialogue on Fiji’s future but feel that the criteria for participation in the NDF is highly restrictive in that while it allows groups including NGOs to be part of the forum, political parties as entities appear to be excluded.
In addition, the stipulated criteria for participation require that contributions of participants be consistent with the principles enunciated in the People’s Charter for Change. However, with all due respect, Prime Minister, we wish to point out that the current repressive political climate in which the NDF is to be held – the PER in particular, the proposed nature of the NDF and its restrictive participation, all stand in serious contradiction of the principles enunciated in the People’s Charter for Change.
In this respect, we wish to draw your attention to our letter to you of3 August 2009 in response to the interim government’s Strategic Framework for Change launched on 1st July 2009 (copy of the letter attached for ease of reference).
The Charter espouses the underlying concept of “joining hands and working together to address all our problems”, and more specifically:
- the affirmation that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land
- the belief in a “strong and free civil society” as being vital to democracy,
good and just governance and sustainable social and economic development – (P7)
- a free, responsible and accountable media – (P6)
- the call for leaders who are committed to genuine consultation, inclusiveness
and accountability – (Pillar 3, P20)
- the recognition that leaders hitherto have failed to involve the people in major
decisions that affect our well being and our daily live (Pillar 3, P20: Peoples Charter for Change, Peace & Progress)
Prime Minister, as we had said in our letter, the interim government cannot wilfully ignore and undermine these fundamental principles on which the Charter rests, and then suddenly embrace them as the way forward for the nation. It makes a total mockery of the People’s Charter and the principles enshrined therein.
The FLP is strongly of the view that any discussion on Fiji’s future must be inclusive and time bound. The only credible people’s representatives and those with the mandate to speak on their behalf are the elected representatives of the people. The interim government will, therefore, need to eventually deal with political parties.
With this in mind, we urge you to resume the process leading to the convening of the President’s Political Dialogue Forum which was abandoned after the events of 10 April 2009.
To be acceptable and credible the PPDF, as envisaged earlier, should be independent, inclusive, time bound and facilitated/mediated jointly by the United Nations and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Anything short of the above will not be acceptable to the majority of the people of Fiji or the international community.
As a first pre-requisite to the establishment of genuine national dialogue, the repressive Public Emergency Regulations (PER) needs to be lifted.
The FLP is strongly of the opinion that no fruitful discussions can be held under the restrictive environment of the PER. There has to be freedom for free discussions and consultations with the people if the process is to have any credibility.
These are our observations and we will welcome an opportunity to discussthe matter further with you.
Jokapeci Koroi Mahendra P. Chaudhry