#header-inner img {margin: 0 auto !important; #header-inner {text-align: Center ;} Fiji Coupfourpointfive: 2010-02-14

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Interim govt's reply to the Periodic Review

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.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review

 The 20-page Draft report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Fiji was released over the weekend.

The United Nation' working party meets every four years to review the human rights records of all of its 192 United Nations member states.

Below are some of the 103 recommendations made by member countries; they show that New Zealand and Australia are not the only countries watching and urging the interim government of Voreqe Bainimarama to restore democracy.

11. To make every effort to achieve a sustainable return to democracy andconstitutional rule at the earliest time possible (Republic of Korea);
12. To uphold the rule of law, including human rights in domestic law, by immediately reinstating the 1997 Constitution (Israel);
13. To consider establishing, as soon as possible in 2010, a full constitutional assembly that will shape the future of Fiji for Fijians and by Fijians (Maldives);
14. To take the appropriate measures to reinstate the legitimate authority, as this is crucial for the strengthening of the country’s ability to guarantee human rights (Algeria);
16. To accord the utmost importance, in the formulation of the new Constitution, to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms (Philippines);
17. To ensure that human rights are explicitly protected in domestic law, including by reinstating the 1997 Constitution and immediately restoring the judges, magistrates and other judicial officers removed by President Iloilo on 10 April 2009 (United States of America);
18. To strive to move forward its reform programme in order to restore democracy as soon as possible (Maldives);
20. To re-establish, peacefully and without further delay, the constitutional order in the country, engaging in a genuine dialogue with all ethnic communities, through free and fair democratic elections as the only means for the Government’s legitimacy, the return of the rule of law and respect for human rights. The underlying issues that have led to Fiji’s political instability should be duly addressed (Slovakia);
21. To return to constitutional rule, to restore a democratic form of Government, to reinstate an independent judiciary, to repeal the Public Emergency Regulations and to reinstate the full independence of the Human Rights Commission (Norway);
22. To instigate an open and inclusive national dialogue leading to early and credible elections (United Kingdom);
23. To hold free elections, given the importance of democracy for the full realization of human rights (Brazil);
24. To take immediate steps towards holding democratic elections before the end of 2010, in order to restore democratic institutions and processes in Fiji (Canada);
26. To guarantee the right to universal suffrage with a view to holding genuinely free, competitive and democratic elections as soon as possible, and to extend a standing invitation to international electoral observers (Spain);
27. To reconsider the need to maintain the current state of emergency, given its implications for human rights, with a view to lifting it as soon as possible, and to ensure that as long as it is still in force, all human rights and fundamental freedoms that cannot be derogated under international law are respected (Mexico);
29. To put an end to the state of emergency in force since 2009 (Chile);
30. To rescind the Public Emergency Regulations 2009 and not replace them with equivalent measures (New Zealand);
31. To repeal immediately the Public Emergency Regulations in force since 10 April 2009 (United States);
32. To ensure the elaboration, in full transparency, of a new constitution guaranteeing the rights and freedoms of each individual, and to lift the state of emergency to allow the re-establishment of civil and political rights (France);
33. To repeal the Public Emergency Regulations and to establish conditions allowing for freedom of expression, assembly and democratic dialogue, including by ensuring protection from harassment and freedom for political activists and human rights defenders (Canada);
34. To lift the Public Emergency Regulations and to restore an environment in which all of Fiji’s citizens can meet freely and express political opinions without fear or retribution (Australia);
35. To lift the state of emergency and to take the measures necessary to reestablish a constitutional order complying with the rule of law, before the date indicated recently by the Government (Switzerland);
36. To revoke the Fiji Human Rights Commission Decree, to lift restrictions on investigations and to take other measures to ensure that the National Human Rights Commission can operate in accordance with the Paris Principles (United Kingdom).

Bainimarama: PER to stay until Media Decree adopted

Fiji’s interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, has told local media the Public Emergency Regulations will stay in place until the Media Decree comes into force.

He says the PER were introduced in the interests of national security, public safety and public order.

Commodore Bainimarama told the Fiji Sun the emergency regulations would only be removed when Cabinet endorses the Media Decree.

“Consultation on the new decree is still under way and the Government remains committed towards a better Fiji.”

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bainimarama to stay commander after 2014

Fiji's military government says interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will not be standing down as army commander ahead of democractic elections in four years time.

However, a senior government spokesman has confirmed reports that Commodore Bainimarama will relinquish his role as interim prime minister in 2014.

Interim government spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Nuemi Leweni has told Pacific Beat it is not known whether the interim prime minister will contest the election, but he is certain Commodore Bainimarama will not be quitting as the commander of the military.

"He relinquishes the appointment as prime minister, but not the commander," he said.

"The appointment of commander will need to be discussed with whichever government comes into place."

Last week, local press reported Commodore Bainimarama as saying he will retire in 2014.

But Lieutenant Colonel Leweni claims a journalist misintrepreted the Commodore's comments, meaning instead that he would stand down as the interim prime minister in the lead-up to elections.

Commodore Bainimarama has previously stated publicy that he will run for prime minister if that is what the people want - ABC

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fiji says resistance to roap map futile

Fiji's military junta has dismissed pressure for elections before 2014 as futile as it faced a barrage of Western calls for a swift return to democracy during a UN human rights council meeting in Geneva.

Delegation chief Peceli Vocea indicated during a UN review of the Pacific nation's human rights record yesterday that a lifting of emergency laws could be imminent and the military government would press ahead with its "road map for democracy".

However, he insisted that the road map, which targets a new constitution for September 2013 and elections a year later, could not be accelerated.

"I respectfully urge the international community . . . to support Fiji in its endeavour to fulfil the desires of the government of Fiji's road map," he told the 47 member states in the Geneva-based council.

"Demanding an earlier date for elections is futile, at this stage," he added.

At the end of the debate, Vocea departed from his prepared speech to discuss the Public Emergency Regulations.

"Let me reiterate that the PER is not permanent and will be lifted on a . . . decree, which is imminent," the Fijian ambassador said.

Military commander Frank Bainimarama overthrew Fiji's elected government in a 2006 coup.

Fiji was suspended from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum last May and from the Commonwealth in September over Commodore Bainimarama's broken promises to hold elections by last March.

He also sacked the judiciary and tightened media censorship last year, prompting widespread international condemnation led by Australia and New Zealand.

In Geneva, the two countries condemned "widespread human rights abuses" by an "unlawful interim government" since the coup, calling for an immediate end to emergency regulations introduced last April.

Australian delegate Miranda Brown rejected the poll timetable. (The Australian/AFP/Pacific Media Watch):