Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Commonwealth head 'regrets' status quo in Fiji
The Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamlesh Sharma, says the international body regrets the lack of progress in restoring democracy to Fiji.
Sharma will be at next week's Pacific Island Forum in New Zealand and says, unfortunately, the status quo remains in Fiji.
Since Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth, there have been more human rights abuses, the beating of citizens including trade unionists, and more decrees aimed at marginalising worker rights and human rights.
Asked if the Commonwealth was considering tougher sanctions, Sharma said: "Fiji remains suspended from the Commonwealth and is actively on the agenda of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group of foreign ministers (CMAG), whose recommendations continue to inform the Commonwealth's approach. CMAG regrets the lack of progress toward the restoration of democracy in Fiji, and is strongly concerned about the continued imposition of the Public Emergency Regulation, and reports of human rights abuses.
"While the suspension remains in place, the Commonwealth continues to seek constructive engagement with the Government of Fiji to support and encourage steps toward the return to civilian constitutional democracy, as well as respect for human rights and the rule of law. Meanwhile, individual Commonwealth members make their own decisions about any bilateral measures they may take in relation to Fiji."
The host of this year's Forum, New Zealand, has said the problems of Fiji will not be discussed at the gathering but members of the Australian democracy movement, Suliasi Daunitutu and Roko Ului Mara, from Tonga, intend to attend and lobby leaders.
Sharma told Coupfourpointfive, the Commonwealth is an observer to the Forum and as such, does not have a role in determining the agenda for Forum meetings. But he said: "The situation in Fiji will undoubtedly be among the issues discussed by Forum Leaders, among a large number of important regional matters likely to be on their agenda."
Fiji's trade unions are now looking to the ILO, which recently sent a delegation to Fiji, for support in the face of the regime's more recent decrees.
Sharma says the Commonwealth is aware of the ILO visit to Suva. "The Commonwealth works closely with a number of other international organisations to find avenues towards improving the prospects for the people of Fiji. We have noted the recent visit of the ILO to Fiji but have not had any direct discussion with the ILO to date."
The general secretary of the United Nations, Ban ki Moon, will also be in New Zealand for the Forum.
Mara has applied for a visa to attend the forum in Auckland.