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Charter For Change Not Dividing Fiji -- Acting PM

People's Charter For Change And Progress Is Not Dividing The Nation, Says Acting Prime Minister, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau

There is growing interest in the country and also discussion on the Interim Government's initiative to develop a People's Charter as the way forward for Fiji, to rebuild Fiji into a nation in which all races live in peace and harmony, progress together as one people, with a shared destiny.

It is unfortunate, however that such intention and vision of the Prime Minister, Commodore Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, and to which the Interim Government is now aligned, is being undermined and resisted by certain sections of Fiji's communities.

I would like to inform the people of Fiji that as of now, there is no People's Charter. What we have is a proposal to develop one; and this is to be done through a genuinely participatory process that includes all the key stakeholders.

From early this year, and particularly since May, the Prime Minister has initiated extensive consultations, not only within the Government but also with leaders of representative bodies outside of government, including prominent citizens and academics both locally and internationally, and some prominent professionals who are former Fiji citizens now living abroad. The purpose of these consultations: to develop the best way forward for Fiji.

The feedback so far from these extensive consultations indicates that most of the people in Fiji would like to move forward for a better future. Based on these extensive consultations, a framework has been developed to ensure greater inclusiveness and the need for effective participation of all stakeholders, particularly at grassroots level, in all the processes necessary to map the way forward. It may be noted that, initially, the proposed National Council for Building a Better Fiji was to consist of 40 members, with 14 from the Government. Now, the National Council that is being set up, and which will have its first meeting in mid-January 2008, will consist of 45 members, with 35 from the non-Government sectors. The representation of Government in the National Council has been reduced from 14 to 10 even as the size of the National Council has been enlarged.

The National Council will be supported by a number of National Task Teams and Working Groups. At the working group level, larger numbers of people are expected to be mobilized from the community to help develop the draft Charter. The work of the Council Task Teams and the Working Groups will be disseminated as widely as possible, so that input from all stakeholders are given due consideration.

To claim that the proposed People's Charter for Change and Progress is dividing the nation, as reported by some political commentators, is simply unfounded and baseless. Also, the claim that the Proposed People's Charter is being driven by ex-Fiji residents is not true.

On a number of occasions, the Prime Minister has already indicated, and I would like to reiterate this, that the People's Charter proposal is an initiative of the Interim Government. As stated earlier, consultation was undertaken with people like John Samy and Francis Narayan, who are former citizens and have an international reputation as development economists. However, it should be noted that in addition, other reputable and credible people have also been consulted, and who have contributed to the development of the People's Charter proposal.

I am of the view that people should learn to appreciate the bigger picture and the extent of the challenges facing our country rather than concentrating on their narrow interests, which is far from helpful.

People who genuinely care about Fiji's overall situation, about Fiji's future, would be serving our nation better if they focused their attention to the details of what is contained in the People's Charter proposal. It is imperative that we focus our individual and collective attention on the tasks and challenges that we face to help rebuild a better Fiji and a better future for all in Fiji.

Ratu Epeli Nailatikau


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