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Military, Police Asked To Accept Election Results

Issue No: 785 22 May 2001

The military has been asked to publicly reaffirm that it will accept the results of a free and fair election.

The resolution to this effect was passed by the leaders of all major political parties which met over the weekend to discuss unity in Fiji.

Other resolution passed at the `Talanoa' called for dialogue amongst all political leaders, and the resolution of the land-lease problems. The full set of resolutions passed are:

1. We see an urgent need for dialogue among the leaders of all political parties before and after the general election.

2. We recommend political parties, religious organizations, NGOs, Indigenous Fijian institutions, police and military forces, business enterprises and associations publicly reaffirm their commitment to accept the results of the general elections and to adhere to the rule of law.

3. We recommend that before the general election, political parties agree to a review of the constitution, and a post-election mechanism be established by Parliament for the review. The constitution review needs to be completed and the outcome finalized during the lifetime of that Parliament.

4. We recommend that before the general election, political parties agree to establish a mechanism, through Parliament, to urgently resolve land-lease arrangements.

5. We recommend the leaders should work together to ensure the resource owners gain an equitable share of the benefits derived form the use of their resources. We call for an in-depth, broad-based assessment to enable Indigenous Fijians to realize fully opportunities arising from the utilisation of their resources.

6. We recommend that within one year of the commencement of Parliament, a commission be established to foster good governance, good inter-ethnic relations, and respect and understanding among all cultures in Fiji.

7. We recommend the leaders of political parties agree before the election that the Prime Minister consider forming an all-inclusive multi-party government of national unity, which reflects the multicultural makeup of Fiji society.

8. We recommend that leaders make it a priority to reduce the economic gap between the "haves" and "have-nots" in all communities.

9. We recommend the formation of an independent and neutral Commission for Truth and Reconciliation to advance justice, healing and forgiveness.

10. We recommend that during the preparation for the next election, the political parties make special efforts to educate and familiarize the voters about content of the constitution.

11. We recommend that the leaders of political parties, in their preparation before the election and their conduct afterwards, act with honesty, flexibility, trustworthiness, tolerance, broadmindedness, and with a commitment to constitutional processes.

12. We recommend the principles and understandings set forth in Talanoa I and II be included as basic principles and understandings of a common structure for building national unity and stability before and after the forthcoming general election.

13. We urge the leaders of all political parties to develop a national vision that reflects the basic principles and understanding stated above.

The gathering was organised by the Pacific Islands Development Program. The PIDP is a regional organization of the leaders of the Pacific Island nations.

END

Democracy and justice source of conflict - Military Issue No: 784 22 May 2001

The media reports that the military is on alert for possible uprising in the country.

Today's Fiji Times reports that the military has identified two sources of uprising. Both sources concern the victory for justice and democracy in the country.

One source is the likely decision of the High Court declaring as illegal the decisions of the President Ratu Josefa Iloilo in reappointing Laisenia Qarase as Prime Minister.

The paper quotes a military source as saying: "A lot of [ethnic] Fijian people, especially Ratu Josefa's people, will not be happy if the President loses his case. They have publicly shown their disappointment when the case was first registered in court. If he loses, we know that some will see it a s a direct insult on the vanua and an affront to the authority of the Great Council of Chiefs".

The army officer is further quoted as saying: "We do not want to take such responses lightly which is why our field officers are presently concentrating on gathering and assessing information on the likely places emotions are likely to erupt".

The military identified the second source of conflict as an election result where the Fiji Labour Party would win government. The military is quoted as saying: "If we have to have an election and Chaudhry's party wins, we really have to prepare for the worst possible scenario. Right now we do not know exactly how people will react. But it is good to be prepared."

The Fiji Labour Party's popularity is rising by the day. Most experts have predicted another landslide victory for the Labour Party.

END

NLTB wants control over all public lands Issue No: 783 22 May 2001

The Native Land Trust Board wants all land acquired by the state for public purposes returned to the landowners.

A media report states that the NLTB is after the land acquired for the purposes of roads, water pipes, and other infrastructure.

The comments came after landowners had blocked off access to about 800 families at Nabitu in Sigatoka. The NLTB stated that it did not approve that the area over which the road passes be transferred to the state. The NLTB wants the land to remain in the hands of the landowners so that they can continue to extract money at will from residents using the road. The NLTB says that it is unhappy with the money which the landowners derive from the use of the road.

The measure to take over all land used for public purposes is another clearly designed measure to extract more money from the public and the state.

END

Perils of residential leases exposed further Issue No: 782 22 May 2001

Citizens Constitutional Forum consultant, Jone Dakuvula has identified a major peril of residential leases offered by the Native Lands Trust Board.

In an article published in the Fiji Sun, Dakuvula relates the case of a two cane farmers who are cousins of a prominent professional in Labasa. He writes:

"Two of his cousins, who were cane farmers, had their leases expired last year and wee not renewed. They chose to stay in their houses and take residential leases on their one-acre compound."

"They had to pay $5,000 premium to the NLTB for this privilege, but recently a family from the indigenous Fijian landowners had moved into the compound and built a shack there. They are now demanding another $5,000 premium or they will forcibly move into his house."

"The NLTB will not mediate. Some of those ex-farmers families have become dependents of my professional friend. In fact he told me he has many Indo-Fijian families who are kinsmen because used to be neighbours, come to his office to "kerekere" for money to buy food, pay school fees, bus fares etc and often he is not in a position to help them because he is in heavy debt himself."

The cases highlight the perils of residential leases.

The Fiji Labour Party has publicly opposed the replacement of agricultural leases by residential leases.

The National Federation Party, on the other hand, has endorsed the residential leases and the NLTB's plans. See http://www.pcgov.org.fj/hot_press/no612.htm for the details of the NLTB's plans.

END


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