Fijileaks publishes full letter from FASANOC president Reg Sanday to Commonwealth Secretary-General written on 25th September 2013
Sandy to Commonwealth: Sporting Sanction Breached Human Rights
Fijileaks to Fiji Sun: Unbalanced Reporting is Human Rights Abuse
No other country has received more suspensions from the Commonwealth than Fiji. Our explusions occurred at the following times: 1987 to 1997, June 2000 to December 2001 and again from 8th December 2006, -- suspension applying only to membership of the Councils of the Commonwealth --- and full suspension from 1 September 2009 to the present. These explusions were all caused by coup de tats involving members of the Military. In all, as a result of these suspensions the Fiji sporting community were excluded from three Commonwealth Games – 1990 Auckland (New Zealand), 1994 Victoria (Canada), and 2010 Delhi.
It is not my intention to bore you with historical reasons for each coup, except to say that as a general rule of thumb a political maturity test of any state is that it is able to complete three transformations of power through the ballot box without incident. In our political history since independence from Britain in 1970 Fiji has never completed peaceful transitions of power based on the three peaceful transfer of power rule. This fact alone should sound warning bells for those wishing to pass judgement on our political history. Our multicultural circumstances are highly subtle and complex and it requires considerable sensitivity when addressing them.
I understand the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) will meet in New York on 29th of September to review Fiji’s current suspension from the Commonwealth. I would be most grateful if you could convey to his excellency the Chair of the CMAG and honorable members the views of the sporting community of Fiji.
We are . . . .
Exasperated by the seeming inability or perhaps a lack of acceptance by Commonwealth members of the basic international principle of the separation of politics and sport as enshrined in the Olympic Charter and reflected in an increasing number of international agreements including the UNESCO brokered Berlin Declaration of May 2013 by Sports Ministers and Senior Officials of Sport and Physical Education as well as at successive Pacific Sports Ministers Conferences of 2011 and also 2013;
Puzzled at how the Commonwealth, representing some of the world’s leading advocates for human rights, is apparently unwilling to see the effect of Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth as affecting the human rights of Fijian athletes to take part in sport, namely the Commonwealth Games which is their entitlement and their first and possibly only exposure to life-changing Commonwealth values.
Respectful of the values of freedom and democracy enshrined in the Harare Commonwealth Declaration that binds all Commonwealth nations in a voluntary and virtuous circle that stretches across the globe, traversing cultures and religious beliefs;
Understanding the basis for the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Program that provides for compulsory adherence to the Harare principles, and, in enforcing them, includes aspects of both carrot and stick approaches. The program encourages the membership to empower the Commonwealth Secretariat to provide incentives for upholding the core political values of the Harare Declaration: democracy, rule of law, and good governance
Remembering that one of the architects of Millbrook, Nelson Mandela, had coined the following phrase "Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair". The great Madiba would possibly cringe to learn that Millbrook that he helped create has become a millstone for innocent sporting communities in countries under suspension.
Sport and the values of sport have unfortunately become a “blind spot’ for the Commonwealth.. The use of sporting sanctions for political reasons is a contravention of a fundamental international principle and, according to UNESCO, also a contravention of fundamental human rights.
We respectfully request, through your good office, that the CMAG look at the application of sport more as an incentive, “carrot” rather than as a “stick” through sporting sanctions. The CMAG should also be seeing participation in the Commonwealth Games as a measure to facilitate consensus building rather than exclusion as is the current stance of the Commonwealth.
New Fiji Constitution and Promise of Elections
We urge honorable members of the CMAG to reflect on the evidence presented to it on Fiji -- the substantial progress being made towards free and fair elections by September 2014. The launching of a Constitution that has won the acceptance of the Fiji people and of the international community. National voter registration campaigns have been completed and are still underway with the overseas registration of our citizens abroad about to begin. The Commonwealth Secretariat itself has contributed to recent reforms within the independent Office of the Supervisor of Elections. Race-based institutions and entrenched provisions that benefit a select few which had sowed the seeds of past political discord have been expunged. Fiji now stands poised to practice the principles enshrined in the Harare Declaration, Fiji now looks to the future with hope.
We ask the CMAG to recommend to the CHOGM in early November that Fiji be invited back into the Commonwealth on the grounds that substantial progress has been made towards returning the country to democracy. A precedent was set at the 2009 CHOGM in Trinidad and Tobago when Rwanda was admitted into the Commonwealth based on substantial progress towards democracy. The situation that led to Fiji’s suspension, though admittedly in contravention of Milbrook, fades into insignficance compared with the genocide and horrific human rights abuses that occurred in Rwanda in its dark days.. Yet CHOGM leaders at the time took the wise choice to adopt an incentive-based or a “carrot” approach to invite Rwanda to join the Commonwealth for the reason that admission would speed up and re-enforce the pace for positive reform and the maintenance of peace.
Though there were reversals along the path for systemic change in Fiji there were no mass killings and massive human rights abuses as had occurred in other regions of the world. With the new Constitution coming into force promising free and fair elections by September 2014 and the accompanying package of measures to ensure that election occurs, as in the case of Rwanda the Commonwealth should be looking for carrots and not the stick to reinforce the pace of change in Fiji. Sport is one such force for positive change. Lifting a suspension to allow a nation to compete in the Commonwealth Games would provide a powerful impetus for the forces of good and positive reform..
On the basis of past experience in the Commonwealth and at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat CMAG members may be asked to conform to a “stick-based approach” that will continue to hurt Fiji, dispirit its citizens and reflect a lack of deeper understanding of the forces that led to previous conflicts.. If honorable members feel compelled to maintain a consensus around keeping pressure on political authorities in Fiji until after the 2014 elections – a hard-line position adopted by the Pacific Islands Forum that was a most unfortunate outcome -- we ask that CMGA consider downgrading the terms of the suspension from “full” to a qualified and less severe suspension where – in the current terminology -- the country will be “suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth.” This would mean that the government of Fiji may be excluded from participation at ministerial level meetings of the Commonwealth, including CHOGM — but that with CMAG’s recommendation our citizens be allowed to participate at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and benefit from normal technical assistance and scholarship programs of the Commonwealth.
This measure has never been taken before in the history of the Commonwealth but past practice has never stood in the way of visionary Commonwealth leaders.
We look towards honorable members of the CMAG to make not just a politically correct decision, based on outdated principles of conservative and punitive internationalism, but to make a wise, compassionate and forward-looking decision that encompasses out-of-the-box thinking and incentive-based approaches. The Commonwealth is a family and the CMAG should make a decision as if it were head of a family.
Separating politics and sport to allow youth of Fiji to compete with their peers from other nations of the Commonwealth in a celebration of sporting excellence, respect and friendship will be a major contributor to peace within the wider Commonwealth family. It will bring the Commonwealth into harmony with the rest of the world on the principle of the separation of politics and sport and will also send a powerful signal about the compassionate heart of the Commonwealth that will serve as an example to others in this troubled world and which all citizens of the Commonwealth can identify with. Please let Fiji compete in Glasgow.