|Wings clipped: Ministerial group's visit coincides with hiccups with the brand new plane that was bought with pensioner's funds. Reports say the Tavenui was in the hangar at Auckland Airport today with a broken window. Pic: Michael Field.|
A Forum Ministerial Contact Group is back in the country but will it do any better than the last one that came to track the return of democracy?
Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr and New Zealand's Murray McCully were here last year offering support and funding of $500,000 but all that went down the toilet.
The regime dumped the draft by the 2012 Constitution Commission and went on to ditch the plan for a Constituent Assembly, coming up with a draft of its own.
|Murray McCully: back again|
|Newbie: Mathew Thistlewaite|
This Contact group arrives ahead of the Forum Leaders meeting in the Marshall Islands in August.
It will talk with regime officials, political leaders, NGO's and the diplomatic corp and its report on Fiji, which remains suspended from the Commonwealth, will be submitted to Forum Leaders in Majuro.
Australia's Foreign Minister Bob Carr is skipping this visit; Julia Gillard is instead sending the newly-appointed Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Mathew Thistlewaite.
Will new blood bring fresh enlightenment to the international community? Because the message going out to the world is simple: the regime must open up the Constitutional process.
There's clear consensus the regime's move to consolidate its power is threatening the Constitutional process, despite the difference in approach.
A report by Minority Rights Group International and Citizens Constitutional Forum out today condemned the regime's recent actions but remained generous overall.
According to a spokesperson: "The government is trying to address ethnic divisions in Fijian politics. This is laudable, but the message is being lost, as the general public simply focuses on the way the government has interrupted the constitutional process and stifled independent opinion."
UFDF to meet with Ministerial delegation
The Coalition for a United Democracy for Fiji, which meets with the delegation in Suva this afternoon, was more direct.
In a statement it said: "The Commonwealth’s demand for Fiji to return to democratic and constitutional rule via free, fair and credible general elections cannot be achieved under the regime’s draft constitution which violates fundamental values and principles on human rights, and the civil and political rights of the people as enshrined in the Commonwealth’s Harare Declaration, the EU’s Cotonou Agreement and the Biketawa Agreement of the Pacific Islands Forum."
The UFDF, which is made up of the key political parties and the Fiji Islands Council of Trade Uniions, is urging the Commonwealth, and the international community in general, to uphold these values and insist they be complied with.
"The people of Fiji have had to put up with seven years of totalitarian rule from the current regime, characterized by a complete lack of respect for human rights and the rule of law and a severely restricted judiciary."
The UFDF has proposed the following to the Commonwealth Secretariat from London which it met today (it meets the Contact group tomorrow afternoon), although others still believe the 1997 Constitution can be brought back.
1) The Ghai Commission’s draft constitution, formulated after widespread consultation with the people, should be reinstated and referred to a fully representative Constituent Assembly for consideration. This Assembly should be appointed by the President following consultations
2) Following the Constituent Assembly’s consideration of the Ghai Commission’s draft constitution, it should be put to a national referendum
3) The Political Parties Decree No. 4 of 2013 to be rescinded.
4) A caretaker administration to be appointed as provided for in the Ghai draft effective from the date of new constitution
5) And the international community must toughen its stance against Fiji, should the regime refuse to comply.
The full list of members on the Forum Ministerial Group are:
1) Murray McCully: New Zealand Foreign Minister
2) Mathew Thistlewaite: Australian Parliamentarily Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs
3) Tuisugaletua Aveau: Samoan Minister for Communications
4) Edward Natapei: Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister & Minister for Foreign Affairs
5) Apisai Ielemia: Tuvalu Foreign Minister
The two-member Commonwealth Secretariat team is led by Ms Shennia Spillane, head of its Caribbean/Pacific Section of the Political Affairs Division.