QARASE, CHAUDHRY SEEK DIALOGUE WITH FIJI REGIME

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Propose exit strategy for military, end of censorship

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, August 27, 2009) – Political rivals Laisenia Qarase and Mahendra Chaudhry have sent a joint letter to Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, proposing ways in which they could all work together.

Qarase confirmed to FijiLive that Chaudhry and he had also written a joint statement to the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group asking for quicker electoral reforms.

"We are waiting for a response from Commodore Bainimarama" said Qarase, indicating he did not wish to comment further on the matter.

Bainimarama has told FijiLive that he had issued a roadmap to elections in 2014, which includes a new constitution that assures racial equality and reforms that will address the country’s coup culture.

"People have tried to change us from the last 18 months, but what we have set out to do will not change," he said. "The government’s view is that the best way forward for a truly sustainable democratic Fiji is, Fiji’s Strategic Framework for Change."

Speaking to a local radio station, Bainimarama said people must accept that they will have to work with the government to ensure that true and sustainable democracy is achieved in Fiji.

Bainimarama said he is aware that former Prime Ministers, Qarase and Chaudhry, have sent letters to the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum.

He said in his interview to the radio station, "people like Qarase and Chaudhry should accept that the SDL (Qarase’s party) is out, parliament is out and the constitution is out."

Qarase and Chaudhry have reportedly been meeting for some time now.

The two leaders who have never seen eye to eye while in Parliament, have been working together to send the statement to the PIF, CMAG and now Bainimarama.

The two have proposed:

1. The President’s Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) be convened in August 2009 to discuss and finalise all issues - including electoral reforms - by October 2009. The Forum process must be independent, inclusive, time bound and without prejudice to its outcome.

2. The PPDF should be facilitated jointly by the UN/Comsec so as to inspire confidence, ensure credibility and guarantee political neutrality.

3. The agenda of the PDDF and deliberations therein should remain focused on (a) returning Fiji to sustainable parliamentary democracy via free, fair and credible elections by October 2010, at the latest; (b) securing agreement on constitutional safeguards to hold elected governments accountable and ensure good governance.

4. Agreement should be obtained in the PPDF on an exit strategy for the Military and the installation of a Caretaker Government with sole objective of taking Fiji to general elections by October 2010 at the latest.

5. In view of the precarious and critical state of the economy, Fiji’s development partners may be approached to offer an economic aid package as an incentive, provided satisfactory progress is made in the PPDF to achieve the outcomes leading to the holdings of elections by October 2010.

6. The lifting of Public Emergency Regulations and curbs on media freedom must be pre-requisite to the start of any political dialogue.

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