PACIFIC PEOPLES’ PARTNERSHIP May 26, 2000

PACIFIC PEOPLES’ PARTNERSHIP Victoria, Canada

May 24, 2000

STATEMENT ON FIJI CRISIS

Pacific Peoples’ Partnership is an international non-governmental organization based in Victoria, Canada, that works in partnership with organizations in Pacific Island countries on issues of concern to Pacific Islanders. We uphold and respect the basic human rights of all peoples, with special focus on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. We have a long history of work with sister organizations in Fiji and have always supported the legitimate concerns of Indigenous Fijians to protect their land, cultural and other rights within Fiji.

While support for indigenous rights is a central part of our mandate, we have always recognized that indigenous rights must be pursued within a framework that also recognizes the legitimate human rights of all peoples. Indeed, indigenous rights can ultimately be better protected in a broader environment that is respectful of all human rights, rather than one which bases political legitimacy on a might makes right, barrel-of-the-gun basis.

We are very saddened over the illegal and armed takeover of the duly elected Government of Fiji by disgruntled elements pursuing their own narrow interests who claim to represent the Indigenous Peoples of Fiji. We condemn the holding of Prime Minister Chaudhry and members of his Government as hostages.

We support the people of Fiji in their struggle to restore normalcy, constitutional government and the rule of law. We support the efforts of the President, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and former Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka to uphold the 1997 Constitution and bring an end to the crisis. We commend the role that Fiji’s military and police have played in dealing with this difficult situation.

We applaud the hard work of the many civil society organizations in Fiji that have contributed to the long process of democratization in Fiji culminating in the carefully balanced 1997 Constitution, which respects basic human rights for all the peoples of Fiji while providing special protection for the rights of Indigenous Fijians. We support their current efforts to promote a resolution of the current crisis that respects constitutional government in Fiji.

In 1997 Fiji’s citizens, including a majority of Indigenous Fijians, opted for a new Constitution. The Labour led Peoples Coalition Government was elected under this Constitution. The attempted overthrow of the duly-elected Government by disgruntled elements misrepresents and distorts present Fijian realities, plunging Fiji into a terrible crisis and setting it back for many years. It has tarnished the reputation of the Fijian people.

We join the chorus of condemnation for this coup and urge the immediate release of all hostages and immediate ending of this disastrous episode. We are in complete solidarity with the people of Fiji as they work to restore order and begin the long process of healing to repair the great damage, both social and physical, of the past few days.

Jack Lakavich                              Stuart Wulff President                                     Executive Director Pacific Peoples’ Partnership         Pacific Peoples’ Partnership

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