The Fiji Labour Party has written to the Australian High Commissioner Jennifer Rawson regarding the special ministerial dispensation given to convicted VP Jope Seniloli which offends against the principle of good governance.
The Party has called on the Australian Government to assist Fiji in ensuring compliance with the principles of democracy, human rights and good governance.
FLP’s call comes in the light of strong statements issued by the Howard government threatening to withdraw aid against Pacific island states which do not adhere to the principles of good governance.
Apart from the Seniloli case, FLP has also raised the issue of blatant racial discrimination contained in the government’s social justice programme and on which it has still not taken any remedial action despite request from the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD) that Fiji address these issues as a matter of urgency.
The full text of the letter to the Australian Government follows by Labour Parliamentary Leader Mahendra Chaudhry follows :
- “I write to you on the above subject. This letter is further to a general circular that I had sent to you yesterday (30 November 2004) and which is enclosed herein for ease of reference.
I draw your attention to a statement issued by the Military on the issue wherein the spokesman has said that the granting of the CSO to the convicted Vice President represents an endorsement of the 2000 Coup. The spokesman continues, “It is an insult to our sense of justice and the rule of law. All effort must be made to stop this rot,” said Capt Leweni. “We are falling fast into the abyss and if nothing is done about this quickly we will continue falling never to recover”.
The above statement reinforces my Party’s belief that the rule of law, good governance, principles of constitutional governance and principles of democracy are factors that still evade the Qarase Government.
It is a matter of serious concern to the party that the Attorney General continues to make decisions on behalf of the Qarase Government that offend the above stated principles.
The Party acknowledges the pivotal role played by your government and the assistance that your government has extended to Fiji in upholding and enhancing these principles.
Regrettably, the questionable actions of the Qarase Government dilute and usurp these principles with impunity.
There are other areas where the road map for democracy and human rights are also infringed.
For instance, the Qarase Government, has not taken any positive steps to implement the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (UNCERD). Whilst I concede that a parliamentary committee has been formed to monitor human rights and racial discrimination issues, there is no tangible evidence to suggest that remedial or corrective measures are underway to implement the recommendations.
Similarly, there appears to be a breach of the principles of human rights as enshrined in the Constitution. A complaint has been lodged with the Human Rights Commission on the apparent breach of equality and non-ethnicity provisions of the Constitution in the formulation and implementation of the Qarase `government’s social justice programme. This programme, by and large, is exclusive and uses ethnicity as a criterion for its application.
Sadly, the Government is intent on continuing with this discriminatory programme. Some delay is expected before the Human Rights Commission investigates and takes remedial action on the subject.
The burden of this letter is that we ask you and your government for assistance for Fiji to return to the principles enumerated above and which principles are the corner stone of any decent, civilized and democratic society.
We must acknowledge your ongoing assistance in the matter but urge you, as a major donor to Fiji, to use you best endeavours to seek compliance with the above principles. May we take the liberty to suggest that your aid to the country ought to seek vigorously, a commitment for compliance with good governance, adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights and other principles stated above.
In making the above request, we are mindful of the policy statement made on Monday 29 November 2004 by the Honourable Alexander Downer, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade. In this statement the Honourable Downer has been emphatic in asserting that Australian Aid will be curtailed if the recipient country does not have the hallmarks of good governance. This exposition of the policy statement was made in reference to Vanuatu.
We welcome this unequivocal and forthright statement of policy.
We will be happy to discuss these matters further. We assure you that if considered necessary, we will be happy to provide you further evidence to indicate non-compliance with the principles adverted to above.”