UNCERTAINTY REMAINS DESPITE BAINIMARAMA’S PROMISE

Editorial

Hints suggest elections are conditional

FijiSUN

SUVA, Fiji (April 9, 2008) - When the interim Prime Minister, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, told the Pacific Forum leaders in Tonga last October that Fiji would have an election in March 2009, there were no "ifs" or "buts."

Since then there have been broad hints that this commitment is not quite set in stone.

In this Monday address to the Fiji Australian Business Council, Bainimarama repeated his March 2009 statement of intent - but now there are conditions. The election can "only be realized with constructive dialogues and engagement from all those interested parties in Fiji, the international community and our bilateral and multilateral development partners and the forum."

He went on to say that an election without a national development plan would be like leading the country back to an era of uncertainty.

Bainimarama did not specifically mention the National Council of Building a Better Fiji or the proposed People’s Charter but both seem certain to have been in his mind if not his words. That would have almost certainly have been the impression gained by his audience and wider public.

At the same time his minister of finance has openly said the charter must come before the election while his co-chair of the NCBBF has broadly hinted at a similar view.

The people of Fiji are left to guess where the truth may lie. This creates the very uncertainty that the interim government says it does not want to lead us back to.

Fiji needs a very clear statement of its leader’s intent.

Will there be a March 2009 general election, People’s Charter or no People’s Charter?

For it is now clear that the NCBBF is not a representative body and that its work cannot possibly be completed properly by its October 2008 deadline.

Is the Prime Minister saying that without constructive engagement of all those interested parties] the election cannot take place? Again, we are left to guess. But the public, not to mention bilateral and multilateral partners, should be left in no doubt about this. For any step away from the March 2009 commitment will cause damage and, again, uncertainty.

Most people in Fiji share and support Bainimarama’s vision of a non-racial, culturally vibrant and united, well-governed, truly democratic nation. This newspaper certainly does. Our bilateral and multilateral partners have also expressed support. The only differences exist in the means chosen to achieve it.

A lopsided body such as the NCBBF will not take us there while the existing constitution - flawed through it maybe - contains the machinery to deliver this vision we all (at least most of us) share.

Let the people decide. Let them vote in a free and fair election for those who share Bainimarama’s vision who offer them an opportunity to turn it into reality.

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