STATEMENT ON THE APPOINTMENT OF

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FIJI TRADES UNION CONGRESS Fiji Islands

A MILITARY APPOINTED CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT

By Felix Anthony General Secretary, Fiji Trades Union Congress

The setting up of a military appointed civilian government by the Fiji Military Forces is a fundamental step backwards for Fiji's democracy.

The Military's take-over of the executive power on the 29th May was unlawful, unconstitutional and unnecessary. It could have continued to deal with the hostage crisis and a deteriorating law and order situation under the emergency provisions of the 1997 constitution. This, it deliberately chose not to do.

Even after this, the Fiji Military Forces had clear options for governance during the emergency which would not have involved the setting up of such a blatantly unconstitutional and outrightly racialist interim government.

We note that this Government does not include one member from the Indo-Fijian community who comprise some 45 percent of the country's total population and does not include a single women.

It also saddens us that the military appointed civilian Government is headed by Mr. Qarase - who headed the Fiji Development Bank for more than a decade.

Serious mismanagement and financial scandals involving tens of millions of dollars during his leadership were under investigation by the Peoples Coalition Government at the time of the take-over of the Parliament. The Interim Government also includes a number of Council of Chiefs' nominated senators who had been actively involved in the destabilization campaigns over the past few months.

It is equally distressing that the Head of the Interim Government announced medium term plans for the harvesting of mahogany forests, reviewing land ownership and leasing provisions and preparing the groundwork for a new constitution. These are matters of national importance. They must be left to those who have a demonstrable popular mandate. The head of the Interim Government made no mention whatsoever of the hostages - who are now in their 48th day of captivity.

The Fiji Trades Union Congress joins the vast majority of civil society organizations and all the mainstream political parties in condemning the setting up of the military-appointed interim government.

In spite of calls from all the mainstream political parties, including the opposition SVT party, the Fiji Military Forces deliberately chose not to exercise the constitutional option of setting up an interim government from 44 members of the parliament (out of 71) who are not being held hostages.

It deliberately chose to ignore the well-considered and authoritative proposal advanced by the Citizens Constitutional Forum, for the setting up of an interim administration from members of parliament who are not being held hostage.

The setting up a military appointed government clearly completes the coup carried out by the Fiji Military Forces after it abrogated the Constitution on the 29th of May.

All its actions since the take-over of Parliament - its dismissal of the President, its abrogation of the 1997 Constitution and now the setting up of an almost exclusively indigenous Fijian government have been to further the objectives of Speight and other terrorists. These actions cannot be justified under the doctrine of necessity.

The Fiji Military Forces should note that the recent agreement between the FTUC and eleven other civil society organizations including the Fiji Employers Federation, the Fiji Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the National Council of Women-Fiji was contingent upon the Military's commitment to the 1997 Constitution. We remind the Military that this constitution firmly protects indigenous Fijian rights and interests through its Compact (Cap 2), its entrenched clauses and the social justice provisions (Sec.44).

Our position was relayed to the Head of the Fiji Military Forces. The appointment of the interim military government is a breach of the faith that these organizations had placed in the military forces to uphold the rule of law.

The FTUC will review its position in consultation with the parties that are signatory to the agreement. Its conditional lifting of the trade bans will also be reviewed. The course of action to be taken to restore democracy will be announced shortly.

The FTUC reiterates that any government structure outside the 1997 constitution is plainly unacceptable to the vast majority of civil society organizations. The FTUC cannot, under any circumstance, accept the legitimacy of the military appointed civilian government.

The FTUC calls upon the international community to understand that the setting up of an interim government by the Military completes the coup that has been carried out by the Fiji Military Forces. The unlawful, unconstitutional and undemocratic military appointed regime must be wholesomely condemned by the international community.

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