10 September 2009
Sir Paul Reeves, Special Representative of Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma to the Republic of the Fiji Islands, departed Suva early on 11 September following a two-day visit to the Republic of the Fiji Islands.
At the invitation of the Interim Government, Sir Paul visited Fiji to explore opportunities for continued Commonwealth engagement with Fiji. The objective of his visit was to support the early restoration of constitutional democracy in the country, in line with Commonwealth principles.
Speaking on the eve of his departure, Sir Paul said his discussions with the Interim Prime Minister, members of Cabinet and others had been cordial, frank and informative.
“While I do not wish to pre-empt my report to the Secretary-General, I can say that I depart Fiji with a clear understanding of the Interim Government’s plans for Fiji following the abrogation of the Constitution in April. I welcome the importance Fiji attaches to its relationship with the Commonwealth, and the willingness of the Interim Prime Minister and his government to remain in discussions with me.
“I reiterated to Commodore Bainimarama and his Ministers that the Commonwealth stands ready to support an inclusive and time-bound national political dialogue, to facilitate the return of constitutional democracy. I also emphasised the importance Commonwealth members place on the fundamental principles that underpin our organisation, including representative government, respect for human rights and the rule of law.”
The Interim Prime Minister conveyed to Sir Paul his government’s intention to implement the “Strategic Framework for Change” announced by him on 1 July 2009, which entails elections being held in 2014. “I reminded Commodore Bainimarama that such an extended timeframe for the restoration of democracy was not one the Commonwealth could support”, Sir Paul said. “In particular, I expressed my view that it is vital to re-start broad-based dialogue on electoral and constitutional issues as soon as possible, rather than delay this important work until 2012.”
Sir Paul said he was disappointed that he had been unable to meet with leaders of other political parties during this visit to Suva. “In deference to the Interim Government of Fiji as my host, I complied with its specific request not to meet with other political leaders. I remain convinced, however, that an inclusive national dialogue which recognises and respects the voices of all major political players is the only way Fiji can find its way back to a sustainable democracy. The Commonwealth will continue to listen to the viewpoints of all sectors of Fiji’s community and political life, in its efforts to assist Fiji resolve the current situation and find long-term solutions to its significant challenges.”
Sir Paul will provide a report to the Secretary-General on his discussions and findings, which will inform the Secretary-General’s briefing of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), and his consideration of the Commonwealth’s ongoing engagement with Fiji.
During the visit Sir Paul met with Interim Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, Minister for Foreign Affairs Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, other members of the Interim Cabinet, government officials, and selected representatives from the private sector, civil society and the diplomatic corps. Sir Paul was accompanied by two senior officials from the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Note to Editors:
The Republic of the Fiji Islands was suspended from full membership of the Commonwealth on 1 September 2009, as announced in a statement by the Commonwealth Secretary-General on 1 September. Fiji’s suspension took effect on 1 September in accordance with the statement and decision of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, when it last met on 31 July.
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