Fiji Sun

SUVA, Fiji (June 15) – The churches can't have it both ways. Those in the Methodist Church and the Association of Christian Churches of Fiji who gave tacit - and often vocal - support to the coup makers of 1987 and 2000, now wish to defend democracy.

They must know that the coups of 1987 and 2000 were neither more nor less legal than that of 2006, so the change of heart, while welcome, is still suspect.

They seem to take the view that by taking part in the People's Charter for Change and Progress (PCCP) they would been seen to render support to the coup - something they never shrank from in the past.

But it needn't be seen that way.

The churches argue that the group has no mandate, that only elected bodies can make public policy, that it will lead to politicisation of some of the institutions of state, that it is unconstitutional, that it purports to promote unity while excluding the major indigenous political grouping and that it cannot in its present form hope to lay the ghosts of coups past.

And, of course, they're right on every count.

But by standing aloof the churches could not possibly do more to ensure that all that they complain of will come to pass.

They should take the pragmatic path and use their combined weight to steer the PCCP away from the danger zones they have quite rightly identified.

That would not be to support an illegal coup. However, it would be to en sure that their respective flocks suffer as little as possible on the road back to democratic rule.

Their decision to turn their backs on this policy making group is misguided.

The voters will eventually pass their own judgment on the events of December 5 and on whatever policy PCCP comes up with.

But by their presence at its councils the churches could help ensure that the policy group stays clear of extremist positions while helping ensure that the voters will in fact have that opportunity to pass their judgment.

The churches have declared their commitment to the European Union vision of a return to democratic rule. That stance should be applauded.

But in the same breath they turn their backs on an opportunity to help make sure that the EU road map is followed.

The churches should engage the Interim Government and its policy making think tank as a means of holding it to its declared promise to make Fiji a better place.

Their presence is sorely needed.

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