Fiji Sun

SUVA, Fiji (May 20, 2008) – It's probably the most positive news we've heard since December 5, 2006.

Ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and the man who pushed him out at gunpoint, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, have sat at the same table and talked.

Sure, the talks were mostly about talks but the opening of dialogue between the two men will bring sighs of relief to a nation desperate for consensus.

For all kinds of progress can flow from this momentous event. If this small flame can be kindled to a healthy glowing fire, the possibilities for Fiji are endless.

As matters stand, if an election were to be held in Fiji tomorrow, Mr Qarase would win hands down. But if Mr Qarase were to return with his old policies, would not the military then feel obliged to step back in and start this painful process all over again? Again, as things stand, the answer would have to be "yes."

However, if through dialogue the two men can reach an understanding on a range of issues, peaceful progress would be very much in sight.

Of course there are barriers to that progress. The major one is the National Council for Building a Better Fiji which Mr Qarase and his SDL party have boycotted, claiming it to be unrepresentative and unconstitutional. Ousted Opposition Leader Mick Beddoes who has also had talks with Mr Qarase on this matter shares that view.

Cdre Baimimarama, on the other hand, is convinced that the NCBBF and its planned offspring, the People's Charter for Peace and Progress, is the only way forward towards a nation founded on equality of opportunity for all, good governance and transparency.

The gulf between the two positions at first glance appears unbridgeable. But all things can happen through dialogue.

Imagine: If Mr Qarase and his SDL could bring themselves to take part in the NCBBF process having been given equal status and influence with Mahendra Chaudhry and his Fiji Labour Party, accusations of bias within the council would lose all basis in fact. This newspaper has frequently said that the NCBBF would have had much more chance of being seen as representative if the politicians had been excluded. But if you have one side you have to have the other - or else be perceived as biased.

And this has been exactly what has happened to the NCBBF and the People's Charter process.

So the contact between Mr Qarase and Cdre Bainimarama, however tentative, is of massive import as far as Fiji's future is concerned.

Of course there will be attempts by entrenched interests on both sides to prevent contacts from becoming talks. For the good of the nation we must hope that both men will be able to overcome them.

We may well be getting ahead of ourselves by merely mentioning Cdre Bainimarama, Mr Qarase and Mr Chaudhry in the same sentence but some kind of accommodation between the three seems to be our only hope.

We urge them to keep on talking.


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