12 May 2008
1. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG) had its twenty-ninth meeting at Marlborough House in London on 12 May 2008. This was the Group’s first formal meeting following its reconstitution by Commonwealth Heads of Government in Kampala in November 2007. The meeting was attended by Hon Akwasi Osei Adjei, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ghana, Hon Dr. Rais Yatim, Minister of Foreign Affairs Malaysia, Hon Marco Hausiku, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Namibia, Rt Hon Winston Peters, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, Hon Rohitha Bogollagama, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Hon Sam Kutesa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, Lord (Mark) Malloch-Brown, UK Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, HE Jean Kekedo, High Commissioner of Papua New Guinea to the UK, and HE Eldridge Stephens, High Commissioner of St Lucia to the UK.
2. CMAG adopted its Agenda and unanimously elected the Hon Dr. Rais Yatim, Foreign Minister of Malaysia, as its Chairman. It also elected Hon Sam Kutesa, Foreign Minister of Uganda, as Deputy Chairman.
3. CMAG reviewed developments in the countries on its Agenda, namely Pakistan and Fiji Islands.
4. CMAG received a report from the Chairman on his recent visit to Pakistan in April 2008. It also received a report from the Secretary-General on the Secretariat’s engagement with Pakistan and developments in that country since CMAG’s last meeting on 22 November 2007.
5. The Group welcomed the fact that President Musharraf had given up his role as Chief of Army Staff (COAS) on 28 November 2007. The separation of the offices of the Head of State and COAS in Pakistan had met a long standing requirement of Commonwealth leaders.
6. CMAG noted that the State of Emergency imposed on 3 November 2007 was lifted on 15 December 2007. The Constitution had been subsequently restored along with the fundamental rights of the people that had been suspended during the period of the Emergency.
7. The Group commended the holding of parliamentary elections in Pakistan on 18 February and the transition to a democratically elected government. It noted that while most observers of the polls had found them to be reasonably credible and the results accepted by all parties, there was need for reform. In this regard, it welcomed the new Government’s stated intention to reform the Election Commission and enhance its independence.
8. CMAG welcomed the recent removal of curbs on private media broadcasts and other restrictions on the press that had continued to be in place even after the Emergency was lifted on 15 December 2007. It also noted that political detainees and activists arrested under the Proclamation of Emergency had now been released.
9. Recalling the call made by CMAG at its last meeting with regard to restoring the independence of the judiciary as an institution, the Group welcomed the new Government’s stated resolve to do so. It urged Pakistan to respect the Commonwealth Latimer House Principles to reinforce the independence of the judiciary and resolve current issues through the parliamentary process, as soon as possible, so that it contributes to democratic political stability in Pakistan.
10. CMAG agreed that, since it last met on 22 November 2007, the Government of Pakistan had taken positive steps to fulfil its obligations in accordance with Commonwealth fundamental values and principles. It accordingly decided that Pakistan is now restored to the Councils of the Commonwealth.
11. CMAG requested the Secretary-General to continue to offer technical assistance to the Government of Pakistan, as appropriate, to support the further strengthening of democratic institutions and processes in the country. CMAG also urged other Commonwealth Members to provide similar assistance.
12. CMAG received an update from the Secretary-General on the Secretariat’s engagement with Fiji and developments in that country since it was last discussed by the Group on 29 September 2007.
13. The Group reaffirmed its strong support for the regional process led by the Pacific Islands Forum. It reiterated that it was essential that elections be held by the deadline of March 2009 as agreed between the Pacific Islands Forum and the Interim Government, if not sooner, and all parties must be allowed to participate freely.
14. CMAG expressed grave concern at slippages in election preparation. It noted the need to appoint an appropriate Supervisor of Elections immediately and called on the interim government to expedite preparations for the elections under the current constitutional arrangements. The Group urged Commonwealth members, the Pacific Islands Forum, the United Nations and the wider international community to ensure the Interim Government holds firm to the March 2009 deadline.
15. The Group continued to be concerned at reports which indicated that the independence of the judiciary and freedom of the media were being seriously compromised, including the deportation of media personnel in contravention of court orders and evidence of the continued militarisation of key Fijian institutions. It also expressed concern at reports of continued human rights abuses.
16. The Group re-affirmed the need to engage in an inclusive dialogue process with all Fijian people and parties including civil society. It expressed full support for the efforts of the Secretary-General’s representative Sir Paul Reeves to facilitate such a dialogue. It reiterated its firm belief that the constitutional future of Fiji should ultimately be determined through a representative, elected parliament.
17. The Group called for significant progress to be made in Fiji towards meeting the deadline by the time of CMAG’s next meeting in September.
19. CMAG requested the Secretary-General to remain engaged, to deploy his good offices as appropriate and continue to offer relevant technical assistance.
20. The Group decided to retain Fiji on its Agenda.
21. CMAG agreed that it would next meet in New York on 27 September 2008.