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Businesses, Unions, NGOs For 1997 Constitution

Issue No: 97; 9 October 2000

A coalition of Business, Labour Unions, Employers and Social Services (BLUES) is calling for all in Fiji and abroad to show support for democracy and the 1997 Constitution.

Fiji's Blue, as the coalition is called, has called everyone to wear blue tomorrow 10 October as a mark of support for democracy and the 1997 Constitution.

Fiji' s Blue comprises the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Fiji Employers Federation, the Fiji Trades Union Congress, the Fiji Manufacturers Association, the Citizens Constitutional Forum, the Fiji Women's Crisis Centre, the National Council of Women, Fiji Women's Rights Movement, the Fiji Council of Social Services, the Fiji-Australian Business Council, the Textile, Clothing and Footwear Council of Fiji, the Methodist Church of Fiji, and the Vanua Chamber of Commerce.

Amongst them, the coalition covers the entire business community, the workers and the NGO's. The coalition aims to "quickly return democracy to Fiji within the frame-work of the 1997 Constitution".

The group chose October 10th because of its historical significance as Fiji's independence anniversary. It calls for the "people of Fiji to show their visible support for the restoration of democracy." A press release of Fiji's Blue stated:

"On this day, which will be known as FIJI'S BLUE DAY in respect of our national flag, banners and stickers are simple examples of what can be done to support the day. The committee welcomes suggestions from the public directly to them or by writing to the editors of the daily newspapers and voicing your suggestions on the nation's radio networks.

"This committee is also supporting a day of fasting on the 10th and requesting the public to contribute their foregone lunch to those who are facing extreme hardship in this time of crisis."

The organisers have also called for people to:

a.. do something blue on October 10 2000. b.. request a blue song on your favourite radio station and say "this song is dedicated to the restoration of democracy in Fiji". c.. Tie a blue ribbon on your gate, tree, car aerial, hair, dog, cat... anything! d.. Put a Fiji's Blue banner on your web site. e.. Turn your home page blue (blue - 0099FF) [Fijis Blue website is: www.fijisblue.com]

In the meanwhile, the regime has threatened civil servants with disciplinary action if they wore blue clothes on 10 October. The Public Service Commission, in a circular to civil servants, stated:

"participating in the Fiji Blue Day is a form of dissent against the government and therefore is a breach of the Public Service Act 1999.

"Any breach of this instruction will be viewed seriously because it is a form of protest against the efforts of the Interim Civilian Government and is clearly politically motivated and oriented".

The statement, signed by Anare Jale, has been strongly condemned by the unions in Fiji. The Fiji Public Service Association called the move "height of arrogance by the totalitarian regime the PSC represents". The FTUC's Assistant National Secretary, Diwan Shankar stated: "Anare Jale must be crazy.. No one can victimise anyone who is carrying Fiji's flag which happens to be blue".

So far, a vast majority of Fiji has called for the restoration of the 1997 Constitution and political conduct to be within the framework of this Constitution. All political parties in Fiji, except the SVT and the Nationalists, have supported the 1997 Constitution. The religious bodies have supported the 1997 Constitution. The NGOs have supported the 1997 Constitution. The entire business community has supported the 1997 Constitution. The unions have supported the Constitution. The legal fraternity has supported the 1997 Constitution. Abroad, every nation, as well as the UN, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the European Union have all supported the 1997 Constitution.

Yet, the regime has turned a blind eye to the citizens of Fiji and the international community. Instead, it continues to champion the propaganda of terrorist George Speight.

END

9 October 2000.

Threats continue

Issue No: 96; 9 October 2000

Threats of further division and hatred have been again made by the interim regime Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase.

In this address to its Constitution Commissioners on 6 October, Qarase referred to the non-participation of the Peoples Coalition and the National Federation Party. He stated:

"Inevitably and unfortunately, their stance will be seen by some as a communal act of non-co-operation that will widen the Fijian-Indian divide at this time of crisis. That will be further reinforced by statements from certain politicians and others, threatening social banishment and rejection from the Indian community for those who have decided to participate".

These statement are interpreted as one which encourages pro-Qarase supporters towards hatred against the parties and the communities which are not participating in the regime's Constitution making charade. It provides an excuse to the right wing to continue its with racist agenda.

In another move, a Constitution Commissioner, Joe Singh, threatened the public on last night's Fiji TV Closeup program. Singh stated that while he could deal with the social ostracism of him by the public, he could not be sure about how the people on his vasu side will react to this, a reference to his ethnic Fijian relatives from Naitasiri. This was a clear reference to threats against those who ostracise Singh and who advocate social ostracism of Singh and his cohorts.

These threats have come from people who in the same breadth have been claiming to work towards national reconciliation.

In his Fiji Day message, extracts of which were published in today's papers, Qarase stated:

"I ask all citizens to look deeply into themselves and seek God's guidance on how we may all be able to contribute to imbuing our nation with a new spirit of forgiveness, understanding, reconciliation and commitment to mutual care and unity".

Qarase has obviously directed this to the wrong persons. The vast majority of citizens of Fiji already possess the virtues of goodwill, tolerance, understanding, forgiveness, etc. Recent events have shown that it is only a handful of vocal and violent minority, of which Qarase and a few of his cabinet members are part, which needs this self-reflection and change. Qarase has dedicated the Fiji Day holiday, marked today 9 October, as a national day of prayer.

END

9 October 2000.

Commissioners Rejected

Issue No: 95; 8 October 2000

The four members of Qarase's Constitution Commission representing ethnic Indians have been rejected by the ethnic Indian population.

The general voters are also divided over the appointment of Bill Sorby to the Commission. General Votes Party did not nominate anyone to the Commission. The United General Party, a coalition partner of SVT, had a divided executive committee on whether to participate in the Constitution Commission. While a slim majority voted for participation, this vote forced the resignation of the UGP's co-founder and spokesperson, Mick Beddoes. Beddoes is against the UGP's participation in the exercise arguing that the UGP was a party to the adoption of the 1997 Constitution and that UGP's leader was a key player in this.

The four representing ethnic Indians, Joe Singh, Fred Achari, Ben Bhagwan and Joseph Maharaj, were appointed at the eleventh hour when all others approached rejected the offer. The ethnic Indian social, cultural, and religious organisations have all rejected the appointees. These include the largest religious group, Shri Sanatan Dharam Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, as well as all other ethnic Indian religious groups like the Arya Pratinidhi Sabha of Fiji, the Fiji Muslim League, the Sikh Society, the Gujarati Society, and the Kabir Panth. Also rejecting the appointees are the Fiji Youth and Students League and the Movement for Justice and Freedom. The Ethnic Indian Summit, a gathering of ethnic Indian social, religious, and political groups, also rejected the appointments. The National Federation Party has also rejected the appointees; so has the Fiji Labour Party. A street survey by Fiji TV, broadcast last night (7 October) also saw unanimous rejection of the appointees.

The overwhelming rejection of the appointees forced them, as well as the regime, to argue that they are not representing ethnic Indians on the Commission, and that they were appointed in their personal capacities.

One appointee, Joe Singh, told a panel on Fiji TV's Closeup program this evening (8 October) that he was a Vasu (a mixed blood between ethnic Fijian and ethnic Indian). This placed him in a difficult position when asked why was he then, filling in a slot marked for ethnic Indian representation.

END

8 October 2000.


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