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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Aug 1) – The Great Councils of Chiefs missed out on a great opportunity to show true leadership for the good of all citizens of this country when it endorsed the Promotion of Reconciliation, Tolerance and Unity Bill, Adi Ema Tagicakibau of the Pacific Concerns Resource Centre said.

Adi Ema was a Cabinet member in the People's Coalition Government.

[PIR editor's note: The People's Coalition Government, headed by then Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, was ousted in a coup on May 19, 2000.] 

She joined an NGO delegation that presented concerns over the Bill to the chiefs' meeting last week.

"While we respect the decision of the chiefs to endorse the Government Bill, we are naturally disappointed as we had hoped in our submission to make the chiefs see the self-serving interests behind this Bill, that had nothing at all to do with genuine reconciliation for the nation," she said.

"But their decision was expected. After all, the GCC is an advisory body to the Ministry for Fijian Affairs, headed by the PM as Minister for Fijian Affairs."

Adi Ema said NGOs and citizens opposed to the Bill would now work to educate members of the public who would be affected by the Bill.

"So far, the Concerned Mothers have collected and submitted 35,000 signatures in their petition against the Bill. This does not stop here," Adi Ema said.

"There is a greater need to counter the fundamentalist and ultra-nationalistic views of supporters of the Bill including that of the Methodist Church.

"Then there is the ballot box where law-abiding citizens have the power to choose a government that respects the law and treats everyone equally without fear or favour. And of course there is always natural justice. The 1997 Constitution granted amnesty for the 1987 perpetrators of the coup. They were defeated in the very next elections in 1999."

August 1, 2005

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