The ANZ’s regional chief Michael Rowland is advocating a grand “coalition of interested countries” to begin dialogue with the Fiji regime on returning to elections and democratic rule.
In an interview with Radio Australia this week, Mr Rowland argues, in line with the stand taken by Ms Jenny Hayward-Jones of the Lowy Institute of Australia, that the present hard line stance against Fiji adopted by Australia has not worked and it is time to adopt a policy that will foster better engagement.
They believe a coalition of countries led by a respected Head of State will make better headway with the regime. This seems a far-fetched idea given the developments so far.
Those who propose such a policy should not forget that Fiji is currently governed under the Public Emergency Regulations (PER) which is repressive, spawns violence and abuse, and denies basic human rights such as freedom of expression, association and assembly.
The people of Fiji are denied their right to elect a government of their choice. These are universal principles that must not be ignored by any nation or institution that has the interests of Fiji and its people at heart.
What is urgently needed is not a grand coalition as proposed by Mr. Rowland and Ms Hayward-Jones but what CMAG re-iterated in its concluding statement in London last week – the need for inclusive and meaningful dialogue among the people of Fiji and their genuine representatives.
Fiji is a member of the Pacific Islands Forum, a regional organisation, which has the mandate to engage with and assist in the process of its return to democratic rule. Besides, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations were called upon by the President in 2008 to mediate in inclusive dialogue to resolve our political problems and they remain willing and ready to do so.
Let the President’s Dialogue Forum be revived and the dialogue process commenced as soon as practicable.
Elections can be held earlier than 2014. The 1997 Constitution which was a product of wide consultation and consensus, should be re-instated with amendments to the electoral provisions to make it non-racial and democratically acceptable.
We must also ensure that adequate safeguards are written in so as to provide for elections which are free and fair and, most importantly, devoid of any rigging.
The PER must be lifted before any meaningful dialogue can take place. Once the people of Fiji have reached agreement on a way forward, friendly nations can be called on to provide advice and technical assistance in implementing the electoral reforms and any other agreed changes.