Saturday, August 1, 2009
CMAG gives regime ultimatum: elections or full suspension
The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group has told the interim regime it has until September the first to commit to holding free and fair parliamentary elections and return Fiji to democracy by October 2010.
The CMAG says failure to follow through with this directive will result in Fiji facing full suspension from the Commonwealth next month.
The group held an extraordinary meeting in London last night. The meeting was chaired by Malaysia's Foreign Affairs Minister, Datuk Anifah Aman (pictured above), and was held in accordance with the principles of the Harare Declaration, the Millbrook Action Programme and the CMAG's own earlier resolutions on Fiji.
The meeting was consistent with the CMAG's previous meeting in early March just before the regime abrogated the 1997 Constitution and derailed the President's Political Dialogue Forum - a process that had the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the United Nations as a legitimate means of finding a way forward from the December 2006 military coup.
The meeting noted that the Pacific Islands Forum had suspended Fiji on May the second. As a result, Fiji will not participate in Forum for the first time in its history when Forum Leaders meet in Cairns, Australia, next week. The meeting will also be attended by Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamlesh Sharma, who has been invited by Australia's Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd.
The key decisions that came out of last night's CMAG meeting are as follows:
1) Should the regime fail to make sufficient progress to return Fiji to democracy, Fiji would be fully be suspended from the Commonwealth at the CMAG's next scheduled meeting in September 2009.
2) The CMAG noted Fiji's worsening situation with regard to the serious deterioration of fundamental Commonwealth values and deplored the abrogation of the Constitution, further entrenchment of authoritarian rule outside of the Constitution and the rule of law, on-going violation of human rights including freedom of speech and assembly, arbitrary detention of opponents to the military regime, and undermining of the judiciary and legal system.
3) The CMAG noted the regime's withdrawal of cooperation with the Commonwealth and the United Nations on the proposed President's Political Dialogue Process (PPDF) and the effective abandonment of that pocess.
4)The CMAG urged the regime to immediately re-activate the PPDF to be facilitated by the Commonwealth Secretariat and the UN and stressed that such Dialogue must be independent, inclusive, time-bound and without any pre-determined outcome, and lead to credibile elections in the countrey no later than October 2010.
5) The CMAG urged the regime to state its firm commitment to reactivating the PPDF as indicated in its terms above by no later than September 1, 2009, in writing to the Commonwealth Secretary-General.
6) In the absence of sch confirmation, Fiji will be fully suspended by that date. But should a positive response be received from the regime, the CMAG has authorised its Chair (Datuk Anifaf Aman) and Secretary-General (Kamlesh Sharma) to consult on engagement with the regime and furnish a report to its next meeting in New York on September the 26th, 2009.
Last night's CMAG meeting also took note of a joint statement from ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and former interim Finance Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, as well as a letter from the ousted Opposition Leader, Mick Beddoes.
Editor's Note: See below for the CMAG's statement on the meeting.