TALANOA BREAKS FIJI POLITICAL LOGJAM

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HONOLULU (East-West Wire, May 2) - Fiji's Parliament has moved to establish committees on the critical long-term issues of sugar-industry reform and agricultural land leases following recommendations of the Talanoa Dialogue, a forum for Fiji leaders facilitated by the East-West Center to promote national unity and stability.

During the Talanoa Dialogue last week, Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and Labour Party leader Mahendra Chaudhry approved a bipartisan motion in Parliament establishing an ad hoc Select Committee on Sugar Industry Reform that will recommend legislative proposals. They also endorsed a motion establishing a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee to make recommendations on land issues including tenure, rental, and rent-fixing procedures.

Qarase, speaking in Parliament last week, thanked the East-West Center and its Pacific Islands Development Program for organizing and facilitating the Talanoa Dialogue that led to the bipartisan parliamentary motions.

The Talanoa was convened by the Center as a way to bring Fiji's political leaders together after a May 2000 coup in which then Prime Minister Chaudhry and members of his government were taken hostage. The Talanoa Dialogue, started in late 2000, has brought Qarase, Chaudhry and other political leaders in Fiji to the discussion table to promote national unity and political accommodation.

"The Talanoa discussions are another example of what Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara named the 'Pacific Way' -- a way of discussing issues, drawing on the island traditions of consensus," Qarase told Parliament. At this special session of Parliament the members paid tribute to the late Mara.

Mara, known as modern Fiji's founding father and one of the great statesmen of the South Pacific, died last month. He was the longest tenured member of the East-West Center's Board of Governors, serving from 1976 to 1986 and 1998 to 2001. He was also instrumental in starting the Center's Pacific Islands Development Program and the Hawaii-based Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders.

Qarase said the Talanoa followed Mara's principles of "reasoned dialogue, mutual respect and understanding, tolerance and good will."

Sitiveni Halapua, director of the Pacific Islands Development Program, is the convener of the Talanoa Dialogue.

May 5, 2004

 

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