The United Nations Universal Periodic Review gave the interim government the opportunity to make submissions to the working group, and it did.
In the draft report, the leadership seeks to justify many of its decisions, from the abrogation of the Constitution last year in July to its belief it's representing fairly the interests of its citizens in the areas of education, welfare, health, politics, gender issues and children's rights.
Here are some of the points it made and that were summarised by the working group:
5. Fiji emphasized the fact that, in assessing the human rights situation, it was vital to bear in mind that it is a country in political transition and governed under a new legal order.
6. Fiji noted that, in the preparation of the national report, two prominent nongovernmental organizations had refused to participate in the consultation process. While Fiji appreciated the efforts of non-governmental organizations and civil society to identify shortfalls, it would have been of great assistance if they could have also identified the capacity-building required as a matter of immediate priority.
7. Fiji indicated that the Government intended to hold democratic elections and to announce any plans that it had for the re-establishment of inclusive political dialogue. On 10 April 2009, in abrogating the 1997 Constitution and ushering in a new legal order for Fiji, the President of Fiji had directed the Government to hold a true democratic and parliamentary election by September 2014 at the latest.
8. Following that presidential directive, on 1 July 2009, the Prime Minister announced the Government’s Road Map for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development 2009-2014. The Road Map is intended to lead to a new constitution and elections based on equality, equal suffrage, human rights, justice, transparency, modernity and true democratic ideals.
9. Fiji indicated that work on the new constitution would commence by September 2012. The consultations on the new constitution will involve all citizens as well as civil society groups focusing on electoral reform, the size of the new parliament, the sustainability of a bicameral system, the term of office of the Government and systems for ensuring governmental accountability to the people. Fiji’s new constitution will be in place
by September 2013. The people will have a year in which to become familiar with its provisions before elections are held in September 2014. The Government intended to commence shortly an inclusive national dialogue process aimed at achieving a sustainable return to democracy and constitutional rule.
10. Fiji urged the international community and requested United Nations Member States to support it in its endeavour to fulfil the Road Map. Fiji noted that the time frame provided not only certainty in terms of a deadline for elections, but also an opportunity for Fiji to address the underlying issues that had led it down the path of political instability.
11. With respect to public emergency decrees, Fiji emphasized that every person had the right to freedom of speech and expression, including the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas and freedom of the press and other media. However, the Public Emergency Regulation 2009 had placed certain limits on those rights in the interes of national security, public safety and public order.
12. Fiji stated that media had not been responsible and balanced in their coverage and had contributed to a confrontational environment. Following the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution, there emerged a need for preventive measures that addressed security concerns that had threatened the nation. Those measures had materialized in the 2009 Public Emergency Regulation. Fiji noted that, since the implementation of the censorship exercise, there had been a marked shift from negative to positive journalism. The Government was currently drafting a media law that would ensure that responsible journalism was practiced, as well as a Freedom of Information Decree that would guarantee public access to Government documents.
13. Fiji emphasized the non-permanent nature of the Public Emergency Regulation and the fact that its extension had come into effect after a careful assessment by the authority concerned. The Government announced that the Public Emergency Regulation would be lifted after the promulgation of the Media Decree.
14. Fiji indicated that, with the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution, all constitutional offices in Fiji, including the Fiji Human Rights Commission, had been abolished. On 12 May 2009, the President had issued Human Rights Commission Decree 2009, which repealed the Human Rights Act 1999. The Decree established the Fiji Human Rights Commission, set out the eligibility criteria for the appointment of commissioners and
provided for the functions of the Commission. The Commission has the power to, inter alia, increase general awareness of human rights by making public statements and educating the public and public officials, receive representations from the public on any matter affecting human rights, inquire generally into any procedure or practice, whether governmental or non-governmental, and to make recommendations to the Government concerning legislative, administrative or other action.
15. Fiji noted that the promulgation of the Fiji Human Rights Decree 2009 had demonstrated the government’s commitment to complying with the Paris Principles. The Government was actively pursuing the identification of individuals to serve as members of the Fiji Human Rights Commission.
16. Fiji indicated that, within the first 10 months following the abrogation of the Constitution, the Government had already promulgated 64 decrees, all of which formed basic laws under the new legal order. The Crime Decree 2009 had brought Fiji into conformity with the Rome Statute, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.
17. Fiji acknowledged that, although successive Governments had had a policy of ensuring at least a 30 per cent representation of women since 2003, their representation in decision-making bodies in the public sector continued to be a major challenge.
18. Fiji has implemented the Domestic Violence Decree and established Zero-Tolerance Violence-Free communities to address the issue of violence against women and children.
19. Fiji criminalized the trafficking in persons and people-smuggling through the Immigration Act 2003 and the Crimes Decree 2009. Under part 5 of the Immigration Act, a victim of trafficking or smuggling is not liable to criminal prosecution. Fiji was making every effort to strengthen prevention, protection and prosecution efforts to effectively combat the trafficking in persons.
20. Fiji noted that the Employment Relations Promulgation 2007 had introduced a framework for the conduct of employment relations, which covers such matters as the fundamental principles and rights at work, the Employment Relations Advisory Board, collective bargaining, strikes and lockouts, essential services and dispute resolution institutions.
21. Fiji has established the National Employment Centre Decree to actively engage the unemployed in meaningful economic activities and to boost employment creation and productivity in both the formal and informal sectors, locally and overseas.
22. Fiji stated that, since 1994, the Department of Social Welfare had been administering the poverty alleviation programme, designed to assist beneficiaries of the family assistance scheme.
23. Fiji noted that, under the Juvenile Act, children under the age of 17 years deemed to be at risk had been placed under the care of the Director of Social Welfare. The Department of Social Welfare administers cash grants for families and guardians supporting children other than their own.
24. Fiji further noted that the Family Assistance Scheme supports disadvantaged individuals and families through direct financial assistance. This assistance supports families who do not have sufficient money for their daily needs.
25. Fiji also indicated that a new initiative was being pursued in 2010 to provide food vouchers to families eligible under the Family Assistance Allowance and who fall under the category of chronically ill, permanently disabled or elderly.
26. Fiji further noted its determination to eliminate abuse against children and its introduction of the zero-tolerance policy concerning child abusers. Teachers implicated in such incidents had been disciplined or prosecuted. Fiji had also introduced free bus fares for children of underprivileged families and provided free textbooks to schools throughout Fiji.