SDL Outflanks Khaiyum's Decree - Party now Social Democratic Liberal Party
"Members of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party, supporters and ladies and gentlemen. Let me extend my greetings to President of the Party, Mr Solomoni Naivalu who is unwell and is unable to be with us today. I also extend my greetings to the Party Leader, Hon Laisenia Qarase who is serving his term in Korovou jail. I understand that he is shortly launching his final appeal through the courts and I send him my very best wishes,and those of all the members and supporters of the Party, both here and abroad.
Last Meeting of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua Party
Today’s meeting is a very important one for our party. It will be the last time that we will be meeting under the banner of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua as a Political Party. We have been issued with a decree by the Military Regime (Decree No.4 of 2013 titled , Political Parties (Regisration, Conduct, Funding and Disclosures) which among others things, compels us to change our name into an English one. This means that no party including our own can be registered under a Fijian name.
Language as Embodiment of Culture, Knowledge and Traditions
Let me make it very clear, this is not my wish nor it is that of the Executives, nor the members and supporters of the Party both here and abroad. It appears to me that the Fijian language that embodies the name of the Party , a language that is spoken by the overwhelming majority of the people of this country, and recognized by all the Constitutions of Fiji including the Yash Ghai Draft, as one of the three national languages in Fiji, is supposedly, not good enough to provide a name to a political Party under this Decree. As now Patron of the Party and one of its founders, you can imagine how I feel when the language of our ancestors with its rich tradition, culture and history and the only one of the three national languages which is officially spoken only in Fiji, is treated as irrelevant and inadequate in terms of the requirements of the Political Parties Decree No.4, 2013.
Main Purpose of the Meeting
The main purpose of this Meeting therefore is to inform the General Assembly and thereby all the members and supporters of the Party that we are required to have a new name in English within a period of 28 days, which according to the Decree expires on the 14th of February,2013. Naturally, the first option open to us was to pick a new name in English but this would require an amendment to the Constitution of the Partyof 2008.This would not be possible given the time limit of 28days as the Party Constitution requires a period of notice of 30 days for the General Assembly in order to be able to do this legally. There is also no provision for extension of time, in terms of the Decree. The Party would be taking a major risk if it were to follow this option. The other option of forming a new Party following the dissolution of the Soqosoqo Duavatani Lewenivanua (SDL), was considered a better option as the period provided for that in the relevant decree, was longer and more open, under the requirements of the Decree. In the light of these considerations, we are here today to discuss the dissolution of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua as well as the voluntary winding up of its assets in accordance with the provisions of the Party Constitution.
Dissolution of the Party and its Contributions to Politics in Fiji.
But for many of us, irrespective of what will happen in the future, the passing of the the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua marks a major era in politics. It represents a time of national pride and a time of re-examining our relationship with our colonial partners .It marks a period in our history when indigenous peoples all over the world begin to assess and evaluate the contributions of their colonial heritage as against their own heritage and resources, as well as the contributions of other communities who through the force of colonialism, have come to live in our midst
Dissolution of the Party and its Contributions to Politics in Fiji.
But for many of us, irrespective of what will happen in the future, the passing of the the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua marks a major era in politics. It represents a time of national pride and a time of re-examining our relationship with our colonial partners .It marks a period in our history when indigenous peoples all over the world begin to assess and evaluate the contributions of their colonial heritage as against their own heritage and resources, as well as the contributions of other communities who through the force of colonialism, have come to live in our midst. Many of these issues will continue to be addressed and we will no doubt be guided by the international conventions and declarations such as the ILO Convention169 on Indigenous and Tribal Peoples,1989; UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,2007; Human Rights Conventions ,1948, among others. This awakening and renaissance is made possible in multiethnic societies through a greater acceptance of democracy, social justice , non- discrimination and the rule of law.
Remembering the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua
Let us spare a moment for the period of the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua.The name itself which many who do not speak Fijian may not appreciate fully because, it is an inclusive name that refers to all the people irrespective of who they are in society and who come together through living and working together .It was coined in stark contrast to the name Soqosoqo ni Vakatulewa ni Taukei(SVT) which was aimed at those in the leadership of the I Taukei Community, and as a name, it was more elitist and exclusive. The Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua, was formed in 2001 very quickly in response to the call for elections following the Labour led Coalition’s Government’s reluctance to form the Government after their successful challenge in the Court in what was known as the Chandrika Prasads Case. It won two successive elections. It 2001 elections we formed the Government with the support of the Matanitu Vanua Party. In the 2006 elections, the Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua won 36 seats and formed the government under the leadership of Hon Laisenia Qarase.
Challenges for the New Party
The end of a party will see the beginning of another. The Social Democratic Liberal Party (SDL). The proposed party has so to draw from out of the experience of the two SDL led Governments, one of which was untimely deposed in 2006.There is some noticeable shift to the centre in our focus and policies as reflected in the 2008 Party Constitution. This broadens our democratic base, and our commitment to multicultural policies and appeal. At the same time we need to maintain our commitment to improve the quality of life of our indigenous as well as our rural community people and the urban poor.
We have huge plans but first we must meet the registration requirements and for this we must be prepared to work and restore Fiji as a shining example of a progressive democratic and peaceful country respected by Pacific nations and the international community.
Although we come here today to bury and say farewell to our old party, but in doing that we are building in its place an even stronger and vibrant party and we appeal to all our loyal supporters out there to receive and provide support to our volunteers who will be coming around and seek their help and support in the registration process of a new Party.
So this for us today, to paraphrase Winston Churchill ,‘is not the end; it is not the beginning of the end, it is only the end of the beginning’
Ladies and gentlemen thank you for your support in all these difficult times and we pray that God bless Fiji and bless us all.
[Also appeared in The Interpreter, Lowy Institute, 16 January 2013, as "China and India in the Fiji equation"].
When it comes to Fiji affairs, the international media usually focus on what Australia and NZ think.
Thus when the Fiji Regime recently created a political crisis by rejected the Draft Constitution devised by its own Yash Ghai Commission, Jenny Hayward-Jones, in her article (The Interpreter, 11 January 2013) noted "despite this setback, international actors including Australia should continue to press for progress in re-establishing democracy in Fiji and engage where they can to maintain momentum in the process".
But the dialogue needs to also include the two "elephants in the room"- China and India- whose critical support for Fiji's Military Regime has arguably undermined the diplomatic stances and sanctions imposed by Australia, NZ and the EU.
For an analysis of the Regime's rejection of the Ghai Draft Constitution:
India's support for Fiji Regime
While observers were surprised that India, the world's largest democracy, so readily supported the 2006 military coup in Fiji, perhaps relevant was the Regime's claim that it wished to protect the people of Indian descent from unfair domination by the indigenous Fijian majority.
This was reinforced when the largely Indo-Fijian Fiji Labour Party (led by Mahendra Chaudhry) quickly joined the Regime in 2007. Chaudhry was however ejected after a year.
However, India's major contribution to the Regime, the large ExIm Bank of India loan to upgrade the milling efficiency of the Fiji Sugar Corporation, has backfired.
The loan proceeds did not lead to any increase in milling efficiency, partly because of inept sub-contracting at the Indian end and technical inefficiencies at the Fiji end.
The sugar industry continues its slump for other reasons as well, and India is under pressure from Fiji to convert that loan into a grant.
Perhaps as a face-saving device, India also recently supported Fiji's Chairmanship of the International Sugar Organization for 2013, a symbolic role used as great propaganda by the Bainimarama Regime.
India is aware of the Regime's media censorship, denial of basic human rights, and its reneging on its promise to hold elections in 2009. Now they see the Regime back-tracking on its own constitution review.
India has to worry that its continued support of the Regime may bring negative consequences from a future elected Fiji government.
China's support for Fiji Military Regime
China's support for the Fiji Regime does not pose any great dilemma for political analysts: China does not share the West's belief in full democratic rights for its own people, or a free media, or other basic human rights being denied in Fiji.
With China becoming an economic Super-Power which "saved" the west from the Global Financial Crisis and continues to save it from outright recession, it can afford to disregard international opinion, as it does over devastated Syria.
But, like the US, as Chinese imperialism matures, China's foreign policy will eventually have to pay greater heed to good governance, human rights, and environmental issues.
Note that Chinese investments in Fiji are relatively minor compared to their economic interests in Australia, NZ, PNG, Timor and West Papua.
China's aid/loan program to Fiji has resulted in many infrastructure developments which will be of significant economic value, when the economy grows.
But Fiji's economy has totally stagnated under the Military Regime for six years, with declining real incomes, increasing poverty, and rising public debt – while other Pacific economies have prospered.
China's unqualified support of the Fiji Regime arguably undermines the diplomatic stance of Australia and NZ, who have a legitimate interest in discouraging unlawful regimes and political instability in the Pacific Island countries.
A Fiji Regime that keeps breaking its commitments, and tries to hang on to power, regardless of the economic and social costs to its own people, is not in China's long term interests in Fiji.
Super Power Roundtable on Fiji?
One of the weaknesses of international diplomacy in the Pacific is that the traditional powers (Australia, NZ, US, Britain, EU and Japan) have tended to exclude China and India as equal multilateral dialogue partners, as they did at a 2011 meeting called at PIDP in Honolulu, Hawaii. http://narseyonfiji.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/political-instability-and-poor-pacific-economic-performance-the-need-for-dialogue-spaces-presentation-to-state-of-the-pacific-dialogue-organised-by-pidp-east-west-centre-honolulu/
This may partly be due to historical and cultural reasons, and partly because the emerging super-power rivalry sees it as a Zero-Sum game in the Pacific. This does not help countries like Fiji.
Fiji's people would benefit if Australia, NZ, US, EU, and Japan were to engage in a diplomatic Round Table dialogue with China and India for a more "pacific" solution to the ongoing crisis.
The rejection of an interim government prior to elections is another indication of the regime’s unwillingness to cede power and have free and fair elections. The President cannot be serious when he tells the nation that we have no honest senior civil servants in Fiji and therefore we cannot have an interim government. The people deserve better from the President of Fiji, precisely the reason why
people and organisations overwhelmingly told the Ghai Commission that the President ought to be
elected and held accountable for his actions.
The President’s claim that 60% of Fiji's population approved the People’s Charter is untrue. The Charter
was never put to a referendum and people were not allowed to freely, without intimidation air their
views on the Charter nor was there any public debate on the issue. The principles of good governance,
accountability and transparency have not been embraced by the regime nor practiced over the last six
years. This gives no credence to the President’s claim to instill these principles in future governments.
The Prime Minister has simply told the Nation that the regime dislikes key parts of the Ghai Report and
will re-draft the report to reflect the regimes view. The redrafted report will be put to the Constituent
Assembly. This is a retrograde step and a breach of the undertaking given to the people and the
International Community to ensure the process of Constitution making is transparent and that the will
of the people will be respected. The purpose of Decrees 57 and 58 states:
“The purpose of this Decree is to adopt a Constitution for Fiji that-
(a) Results from full, inclusive and fair participation of all Fijians;
(b) Meets the needs of Fiji and the aspirations of its people;
(c) Unites the people of Fiji
(d) Includes provisions appropriately designed to achieve, among others-
(i) True democracy; and
(ii) Respect for, and protection and promotion of human rights and….”
We clearly understand that no one can create a truly democratic society through undemocratic means.
This now explains why the copies of the Ghai report were confiscated and not distributed to the public.
The FTUC calls upon the Regime to honor its commitment to respect the will and aspirations of the
people. It is time that the Regime allows a free and open debate on the Ghai report. No doubt there
may be areas of concern that people may have and the report acknowledges this. The people of Fiji have
the capacity to create a just society without force."
"...Secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy... censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to its subjects, 'This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know,' the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives." --Robert A. Heinlein, -If This Goes On
click link below:
The Draft Ghai Constitution 2013
The Explanatory Report
Appendage to Draft Constitution
Professor Yash Ghai's Statement