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Launch of Council For Reconciliation And Unity

Mr Laisenia Qarase
Prime Minister and Minister for National Reconciliation and Unity


CENTRA Mon.20th Nov.2000
SUVA 10.00 AM

Ladies and Gentlemen, I welcome you most sincerely to this very important occasion, the launching of the National Council for Reconciliation and Unity.

This Council has a very important role to play in this beloved nation of ours. As you all are aware, we are in a situation that no one has ever thought we would witness.

Before May 19, the economy of the nation was showing great promise. The international relations were very encouraging at the time. The signing of the new ACP/EU Economic Convention, which was to have been known as the Suva Agreement or Convention, was about to take place. We had just been honoured with the peacekeeping duty in East Timor. Our record in peacekeeping duties in Lebanon, Mt Sinai, Kosovo, only to name a few, had been greatly praised.

In the area of sports, achievements in athletics, netball, soccer and rugby, had placed us well ahead of most of our developing neighbours in the Pacific.

On May 19 something went radically wrong that practically dashed all our good records since then. We have slipped back a long way. Our peace-loving nature has turned nasty. What began as a peaceful and orderly march was followed by an unprecedented wave of violence and destruction.

A week later, shooting and killing took place. By then it was clear that hatred was deeply rooted in some of the people involved.

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Gradually, during the fifty-five (55) days of negotiation with the rebels, it became clear that there was real division within our various communities.

It was obvious that the good relations, and the gentleness and friendliness for which we are well known throughout the world had evaporated in some quarters.

But we were very grateful indeed for the patience of our Military and negotiators who managed to secure the release of all the hostages.

Furthermore, happenings outside Suva and in Vanua Levu confirmed the fact that there is a real split among the indigenous Fijians.

And the refusal by some of our Indo-Fijians to participate in the Constitution Review and in the National Council for Reconciliation and Unity does make the effort of the Interim Government a little more difficult.

However, to those of you who have graciously accepted our invitation to form the National Council for Reconciliation and Unity, to you I offer my heartfelt thanks and pray that our Heavenly Father will richly bless you in your service as peacemakers and reconcilers. Our God claims such people, the peacemakers, as His own special children.

You are to be the adviser to the Interim Government on matters relating to reconciliation and unity among our people. The Ministry of National Reconciliation and Unity is the Secretariat that will handle the decisions you make.

You are at liberty to make requests to the Ministry for what you want examined or done.

The task of reconciliation and creating unity is both a mammoth and difficult one. But if we want to take our nation back to the stage where Fiji is regarded as the place where gentle and friendly people live, we must act now and act with determination but also with love and diplomacy and with God's help this could be achieved.

Fiji is a small country with a culture among the indigenous people, which creates a lot of inter-relation links. This means that any rifts between two people, or families, would involve many others. Such a situation makes the work of reconciliation and unity quite trying.

Fiji is, however, very fortunate indeed because the people of this nation are deeply religious. The Christian religion is very strong although many are nominal members. The Hindu religion and the Muslim religion cater for the majority of the Indo-Fijians. All of us appreciate the fact that we are children of God and that we should worship Him ardently.

I therefore appeal to you, representatives of the various Churches and religions, to get your people to request forgiveness for and cleansing from the wrongs and sins committed and ask for the ability to forgive and to reconcile with those we have wronged or hurt. May we all truly practice the high ideals of our religions.

In Christianity, the three (3) most important Commandments are:

(1) Love the Lord your God supremely; (2) Love your neighbour as you love yourself; and (3) Love one another.

If one fulfils the above, he will not steal or speak evil of others; he will not harbour grudges against others nor would he be caught practising vindictiveness.

We have just celebrated Diwali, the festival of lights, of goodness and friendship.

We Christians and, I am sure, the Muslims also, value the power of light, which dispels evil and its shady power of darkness.

Let us unite in championing the power of love, forgiveness and light. For with these in the hearts of people, there will be no place for evil thoughts, hatred and evil plans.

Many countries in the world today are in a real mess. Greed for power, authority and money; selfishness; suspicion and fear which emanate out of one's guilt - these are the causes of conflicts and untold sufferings in the world today. If we act quickly in Fiji, we can prevent our beloved nation from drifting into more trouble and the resulting suffering.

In many countries in the world today the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer.

The much talked about "Blueprint" is an effort to bridge the gap that is growing between the "haves" and the "have nots".

Reconciliation means healing the sores caused by power struggle, selfishness, fear, ignorance, great economic disparity, injustice, lack of ability to distinguish between what is right and peace-oriented and what is wrong and animosity-oriented.

In conclusion, I would request you to involve schools, teachers, religious groups, institutions, the Military, the Police, Trade Unions, Women's Organisations, in your outreach.

And once again, I would like to thank you most sincerely for your willingness to serve in this Council.

May God bless you in your service for Him and for the Nation which is rightly His.

Vinaka vakalevu.


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