The Council had been anxious that the possible outcome of the latest Forum meeting, in light of the very recent apparent volte face conducted by Australia and New Zealand towards the Fiji regime and its current charade of Constitutional consultation.
The actual outcome in terms of the Communique now issued and recent forceful statements by NZ PM John Key and Samoa PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is however most encouraging.
The Communique is welcome in that it treats with great caution the steps already taken by the regime. It clearly defers regularisation of Fiji’s status until much more far reaching steps towards democracy are taken. Fiji remains excluded from the Forum which is of course as it should be having regard to the persistence of its continuing militarisation. The Communique is unanimous and the continuing exclusion of Fiji is clearly acquiesced in even by states of the Melanesian Spearhead Group with which the current regime frequently boasts a special relationship.
Also most encouraging is the statement by John Key (hopefully on behalf of both Australia and New Zealand) that “We will obviously point out we really don’t think Fiji should be allowed back into the forum in full until they actually have democratic elections and the military are back in the barracks.”
It must be pointed out that currently Fiji is a long way from democratic elections and the Army is a long way out of the barracks- indeed its all pervading presence and total control is the major feature vitiating the future of Fiji.
The registration of voters is an empty and futile exercise without the democratic promulgation of a Constitution under which voting would take place. Such Promulgation is far off and may well never occur. The process for submissions vis a vis the Constitution has, as the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission stated, been marred by the all pervading fear which induces many not to make submissions, and by the (understandable) obsession of the regime with immunity for itself from prosecution.
The incarceration by the regime of the winner of most votes in the last democratic elections, via a non independent asserted Sri Lankan High Court Judge, on basis of charges of considerable antiquity paling against those with which the current regime leaders should be charged, is also hardly encouraging.
As has already been said, the real key to the future is the genuine return of the army to barracks – not just a symbolic return but a true withdrawal from all aspects of public life, removing the shield of protection currently surrounding the cowards who run the present regime. That return should have occurred years ago. Instead increasing militarisation has occurred, of which the Australian Foreign Minister has rightly complained.
Demilitarisation must precede any further electoral preparations. Without it, these are futile and meaningless. Likewise, the conduct of elections. The international community ought not to accept the spectacle of army run elections and ought not to be deceived by the plethora of allegedly “independent” institutions created by the alleged Attorney General to pull the wool over its eyes in regard to preparations for elections.
The respect in which the Chairman of the Constitutional Review Commission is held is no remedy for the above stated problems. His recommendations will be made to another body a puppet of the regime and a fiction of the imagination of the alleged Attorney General, the Constituent Assembly.
There is no substitute for an immediate and genuine withdrawal of the army to barracks now, not later after the current charade has become even more of a charade. In default of such withdrawal no election preparations or actual election will have any credibility.
Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara
Council for a Democratic Fiji