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Fiji: Rejection Of Motion For Sanctions.

13/10/00

GOOD NEWS AT ACP/EU JOINT ASSEMBLY!.

REJECTION OF MOTION FOR SANCTIONS.

The 1st session of the ACP/EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly last night rejected a motion for a draft resolution calling for economic sanctions on Fiji through the suspension of assistance.

Voting on the draft resolution took place late last night in Brussels a day after Fiji¹s Foreign Affairs Minister, Kaliopate Tavola addressed the assembly.

The rejection of the proposed resolution also covered Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands who were listed on the agenda of the meeting as "urgent subjects relating to the situation in the Pacific."

Word from Brussels noted that speakers from both the European Union and the African Caribbean and Pacific countries agreed that Fiji should not face economic sanctions.

This is despite a concerted campaign by sympathisers of the deposed Chaudhry Government to implement such sanctions.

However the ACP/EU will further discuss the Fiji situation on October 19th after the presentation of the report of the Pacific ACP Ministerial Mission headed by PNG Foreign Minister, Sir John Kaputin

Foreign Affairs Minister, Kaliopate Tavola in addressing the assembly informed the ACP and EU that "Fiji would like them as friends to help them understand the situation that we are grappling with."

"I believe that warnings of serious consequences as contained in the draft resolution 3019 are only counter-productive."

"Similarly threatening us with sanctions as a result of the political upheaval we have sustained will only hurt those we do not wish to harm."

Minister Tavola also clarified to the joint assembly that the Interim Civilian Government is not an extension of the George Speight Group.

"We for instance do not believe nor subscribe to ethnic exclusivity."

"Furthermore we are not in the business of disenfranchising anybody be they Indo-Fijians or others."

Minister Tavola further informed the assembly that the George Speight Group did have their list of an alternative Government and if given the opportunity "they will willingly assume the role of a new Interim Civilian Government."

"The current Interim Civilian Government is therefore preventing a back-slide to anarchy, lawlessness and mob rule."

"We are taking the country away from the brink of disaster toward long-term peace and stability."

"We are determined to do this!"

The Foreign Minister also clarified to the assembly the reasons for members of the interim Government taking up their responsibilities.

"All of us in the ICG did not choose to be in it!

We didn¹t ask to be in it!

"What binds us together is our commitment to answering the call to national duty. We could not possibly sit idly by and see our country sink into anarchy and desperation."

Minister Tavola added that Government has a clear roadmap to returning the country to democracy and constitutional processes.

"A draft (Constitution) is to be ready by end of March 2001 at the earliest. We will want to spend 5 months after that to carry out the important task of consultations and promotion of the new Constitution to the people at the grassroots."

"This is critical! We need to do this because we have learned from the mistakes of the past."

On the newly-instituted Council for Reconciliation and Unity, Minister Tavola said "this is a new initiative of the ICG. For the first time in the history of this country, we are taking serious measures to bring the races closer together, to get the people ­ all the people ­ to understand each other better ­ our cultures, aspirations, our fears and emotions. "Too often in the past, we had depended on constitutional and economic means to foster closer ethnic relations. We had forgotten to do what was needed most, and that was to cultivate at the inter-personal level, understanding and respect for each other."

"Equally important is the rehabilitation of the main victims of this sad chapter in our history."

On the economy, Minister Tavola said that although badly damaged it is recovering.

"Tourists for instance have started to return. The US, New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom and the Japanese Governments have all revised their respective travel advisories to allow the tourists to return, much to our collective delight."

"Increasing numbers of people who were laid off are now returning to work. There is still more to be done."

He informed the assembly that the 2000 mini-budget was necessitated by an estimated shortfall of government revenue of about $150m to the end of this year.

"And Our 2001 Budget will be more adventurous and would allow us the opportunity to resume the capital work that had to be shelved."

Minister Tavola returns to Fiji in a week¹s time after the presentation to the assembly on October 19th of the report of the Pacific ACP Ministerial Mission led by PNG Foreign Minister, Sir John Kaputin.

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