SUVA, Fiji (Oct. 6, 2008) - The Methodist church claims most of its members reject the draft People’s Charter.

The interim government’s National Council for Building a Better Fiji (NCBBF) claims most people who have voted on it on the forms supplied by its teams support the charter. Someone is not telling the whole truth. And the only way to find out who has been misleading us all along is by holding a national referendum to gauge what the people want.

The interim government will be wise to suspend the NCBBF and the draft charter consultations, request the United Nations or Commonwealth to provide funding and resources to hold a referendum, and do that straightaway. Only then can we move forward confidently and in unity. But the people, not the interim administration or the NCBBF, must decide how they want to do that. If the people want the charter as the best way to move the country forward, then everyone including the Methodist Church and the international community should throw their support behind the interim government.

The international community can start by lifting sanctions, travel bans and release all financial aid withheld since the December 2006 military takeover. If on the other hand the people reject it, then the interim administration should look at other options. It knows it does not have any mandate from the people to do what it wants to do. Any reasonable and wise leader would do the right thing and seek the people’s views on how they want to move forward. To do otherwise will only lead to chaos and disaster.

The interim regime should not underestimate the will of the people and instead respect their wishes. There have been a lot of criticisms on how it is managing the nation right now. The only way it can shut the mouths of its critics is by getting the support of the people behind it. Right now there is doubt it has that support. And it cannot move the country forward if it lacks that vital support.

What President Ratu Josefa Iloilo should do right away is ask the UN or the Commonwealth to fund and provide resources for a national referendum as soon as practicable. He should suspend the implementation of his mandate to the interim administration and focus all attention on the referendum. He should forget for now the forum concept he wants to set up. It is the right and most sensible thing to do right now.

We have been running around in circles for the past 22 months and people are getting bored of being lied to. They want their jobs back, their standard of living improved and the economy nursed back to normal and growing as quickly as possible. It has been a long 22 months and the frustration and anger are on the point of bursting. We all agree with the interim government that we have to move the country forward. A national referendum is the best way to do that. It seems we just don’t have any other sensible and realistic option right now.

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