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CMAG And Fiji

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today welcomed the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group's decision to appoint a Special Envoy who would act as a facilitator to accelerate the restoration of democracy and to promote national unity in Fiji.

CMAG met in New York on Friday 15 September and heard from both deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and Prime Minister of the Interim Administration Laisenia Qarase. Phil Goff participated in the meeting by invitation.

"CMAG rejected the timetable laid down by the Interim Administration, with an election within two years and the intention to replace Fiji's 1997 Constitution, as inadequate in terms of the need to promote national reconciliation and unity in Fiji as a matter of urgency," Mr Goff said.

"It is important that the Commonwealth remains engaged with the situation in Fiji. The appointment of the Special Envoy will ensure that the Interim Administration will be in no doubt of the expectations of the international community.

"The two-year timeframe for elections is unacceptably long. The normal purpose of a caretaker government is to reconcile differences within a country. However, the Interim Administration in Fiji, which has no democratic mandate and is constitutionally illegitimate, remains fundamentally unrepresentative with only one out of 35 Government Ministers who is Indo-Fijian and only two who were Ministers in the Chaudhry Government.

"Fiji already has the infrastructure in place to hold elections. The Interim Administration must move more quickly than the two year timeframe it announced at the CMAG meeting.

"There is no mandate for Mr Qarase to change the Constitution. The determination of the Interim Administration to unwind the 1997 Constitution in favour of a racially-biased one would be a grave injustice to 44% of the population who are Indo-Fijian.

"The 1997 Constitution which made provision for indigenous rights was passed by both Houses of Fiji's Parliament and by the Great Council of Chiefs. It should not be changed by a non-elected interim Government. With the Constitutional Review Group seemingly dominated by Speight supporters, neither the process it follows nor its outcome will be seen as acceptable.

"Mr Qarase must listen to the international community, restore the 1997 Constitution and return Fiji to a democratically elected government as soon as possible."

ENDS


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