Mr President, I extend to you, and this Assembly, our warm greetings: Ni sa Bula vinaka. I congratulate you, Mr. President, on your election to the Presidency of this, the 64th session of the General Assembly.
I pay tribute to your predecessor, His Excellency Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann for presiding over the 63rd Session with great sensitivity and also bringing a human face to our work.
Mr. President,the 64th Session of the General Assembly will be addressing important contemporary issues of interest to all member nations. These issues include seeking out effective responses to global crises, strengthening multilateralism and dialogue on international peace, security and development. These issues are indeed of critical importance to my own country, a small island developing state, which has been enriched by its membership and participation in the United Nations.
Mr. President, Fiji and its people, like all small developing island states, are among the first victims of contemporary global crises such as the financial and economic crisis, the swine flu pandemic, and most dramatic of all, the phenomenon of climate change. In small economies such as ours, these global events have a very real effect on the daily livelihoods of our people.
For our part, we have attempted to respond to some of these crises by making policy changes and adjustments, encouraging our people to grow their own food, and discouraging food imports wherever possible. Over the last two years the size of the public service has been rationalized.
We have maintained a very streamlined Cabinet structure and significantly controlled
government operational costs. Mr. President, there have been critics of the events in Fiji since December 2006, when the military, with great reluctance was forced to remove the then government of Fiji. I believe that these critics are largely unaware of the extent to which politicians, in league with those who employ terror as a tactic to push a racial supremacy and corrupt agenda, had become a threat to the safety and security of our people.
Terrorism has become a global issue and it impacts Fiji as well. We are fully cooperating in the international effort to control and contain this scourge.
Mr. President, next year on October the 10th, Fiji will celebrate the 40th year of its independence and the 40th anniversary of our membership of the United Nations. We embraced our independence full of enthusiasm, excited by the prospect of deciding our own future and believing that our community as a whole would work together in order to achieve a better life for all our people. Our path has not been smooth or easy.
His Excellency the President of Fiji abrogated the Constitution on 10 April of this year. He took this step when the Court of Appeal ruling created a legal vacuum, a constitutional anomaly which would have also prevented the implementation of the reforms which were mandated by him, to achieve a truly democratic state.
On 1st July, of this year I announced a road map intended to lead Fiji to a new Constitution, and elections based on equality, equal suffrage, human rights, justice, transparency, modernity and true democratic ideals.
Mr. President, I and my Government were mandated to carry out and continue the reforms which will ensure that true, democratic, non-communal, and equal suffrage based elections for parliamentary representation are held by September 2014. A roadmap to implement this mandate was announced on 1st July of this year.
Together with stringent steps to protect our economy from the effects of the world economic crisis, work will commence on a new Constitution by September 2012. 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 consultations with, and input from, the people of Fiji.
The People's Charter was adopted by His Excellency the President after the endorsement of the majority of the People of Fiji. Mr. President, work on the new Constitution will involve consultations with all the ordinary citizens of our country as well as civil society groups. Consultations will focus on issues such as the size of the new parliament, the sustainability of a bi-cameral system, the term of office of a government and systems of accountability of government to the people.
Mr. President, the new Constitution, implementing the reforms and the result of extensive consultations, will be in place by September 2013. This will give the people of Fiji, a year to become familiar with its provisions before elections in September 2014.
There have been critics of this time line. These critics ask why work on the new constitution will not commence before September 2012. The answer is very simple, at least to those who know and understand Fiji's history. Fiji has had a colonial history which created many anomalies and inequalities, the legacy of which resonates today. Consequently and of the making of the politicians, our post-colonial period has been punctuated with political instability.
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 to replace it with its own supporters and representatives. This was only possible because those institutions of the State which were supposed to protect democracy and democratic values, instead colluded with the elite, to destabilize and replace the new government. That is not all.
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 underdeveloped 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.
Together with infrastructure, the hearts and minds of our people must adopt and cherish true democracy. The way of the old elite must never triumph again.
There must be reforms before elections, to ensure that democracy is sustainable for Fiji's long term future. The people of Fiji, deserve better than the short term band-aid solutions we have experienced over the past decades.
Mr. President, I ask for patience and understanding particularly from our neighbours who have shown a surprising lack of understanding and disregard of the peculiar situation which our country has experienced since independence. Put another way, Mr. President, there is an almost blind faith that once independence has been granted to those who were under colonial rule, and the machinery of democracy begins to work, that the country concerned would have plain sailing. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I invite the international community to engage with us, visit our country to see the situation for themselves and to provide practical support and assistance to enable us to implement the reforms. Mr. President, history is replete with the struggles of people the world over for self determination, to be free from subjugation and foreign domination. Our own experience should have provided some indication if one is needed, how difficult it has been for us to achieve true, genuine and sustainable democracy.
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