Fiji Social Welfare Minister Dismisses Labour Party Accusations

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Labour worried government will ‘plant its own people’ in elections

By Reginald Chandar and Mereani Gonedua

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, July 18, 2012) – The process of identifying potential women candidates is an impartial initiative that the Fiji's Women and Social Welfare ministry is undertaking in partnership with United Nations (UN) Women as part of the Bridge Program, says minister Dr. Jiko Luveni.

Her clarification comes in light of a statement issued by the Fiji Labour Party (FLP) which questioned the role of the minister following her comments in a local daily.

Luveni, in the article, had said that the ministry of women was engaging in the process of identifying women candidates for the general elections, and that they were working with provincial councils and women's organizations to identify and train potential candidates.

"This partnership with UN Women is aimed at identifying and equipping women who have the potential to take leadership positions in the political arena, and they could be from any political persuasion and party," said Dr. Luveni.

"They will be acquainted with political processes and understanding the essentials of democracy, good governance and transparency."

She said the FLP's comment on this move by the ministry is nothing more than frivolous. "The comments are irrational, and are serving the personal and political interests of the party individuals.

"The Ministry since its inception in 1987 has been the primary policy advisor to Government on women development and gender issues. It is guided by the principles enshrined in the (Roadmap for Democracy Socio Economic Development 2010 – 2015).

"Increasing women’s participation into political bodies is aligned with Fiji’s commitment to international instruments and in particular the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)."

Although successive Governments had a policy of having 30 percent representation, since 2003, this has not been achieved.

"Achieving the goal of shared decision making between men and women will reflect the composition of society and strengthen the democratic processes of governance.

"It is also a necessary condition for women’s interests to be taken into account. Without the active participation of women and incorporation of women’s perspectives at all levels of decision-making the goals of equality, development and peace articulated in global women’s conferences will be difficult to achieve.

"The potential women leaders in rural and urban areas who can be nominated to become members of the parliament will be encouraged to come forward, be informed and participate in constitutional consultations and electoral process especially in preparation for the next elections.

"The Ministry remains apolitical in its vision to ‘empower the women in social, economic and political spheres of development’ and is adamant in its commitment to advance gender equality and ensure women’s effective participation in national development both now and in years in come."

FLP said it was appalled at the report and the political implications of the move were alarming.

"Why is a government Ministry getting involved in identifying candidates for the general elections?" the party said in the statement. "The Provincial Councils and women’s organizations, including units in rural areas, are being used in this highly questionable exercise.

"Dangers of indoctrination as well as an attempt by the regime to plant its own people into the process, cannot be overlooked. One also wonders at what inducements will be offered to get these people on board.

"The FLP has from the outset questioned the day to day involvement of the regime in the electoral process and now we have the civil service being blatantly involved in the selection and identification of candidates.

"This is against rules requiring the political neutrality of the civil service. The regime is setting dangerous precedents by interfering with this independence," the party added.

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