"I have to-date believed and worked on the understanding and premise that you (and indeed also the RFMF) are genuinely committed to Option One (to exercise visionary, unifying but strong, decisive and statesmanlike leadership) as the path to follow to achieve the change agenda in the draft Peoples Charter. However, my deep sense of dismay and disquiet stemmed from the fact that after listening to the discussions in the meeting last Tuesday, I had the distinct impression that, individually and collectively, you all seemed to be tending towards Option Two above (your leadership adopts the modality of “my way forward is the only way”; and that in the face of continued resistance, you (and the IG and RFMF) resort to strong arm tactics and an increasingly dictatorial approach to governance.) If my reading of what transpired in the Tuesday meeting is correct, then for me, that is unacceptable; and for that reason, I cannot and will not continue to serve now as Head, TASS. I should leave at the end of my current term which comes to an end next Friday...Before I conclude this note, let me please briefly touch on the forthcoming meeting of Political Party leaders...It is important that Monday’s Meeting is conducted in a positive atmosphere and directed at some preliminary but solid outcomes which would give oxygen to the dialogue process." - John Samy, 2008
1. I thank you for the opportunity for us to meet yesterday so that I could discuss with you my concerns about the developments following the phone call that you made to me around lunch-time last Monday. The subject matter of that phone call was the proposed meeting of Political Party leaders, that you had earlier agreed to convene on Monday, 27 October, 08. Over the phone, you reminded me that you had been averse to the idea of such a meeting to be held at this time; that after I had convinced you to convene it, you did not have the opportunity to brief the Military Council ( MC ) on it, and that the latter was strongly opposed to it; that you felt being rushed by me into agreeing to this; and that you had decided to cancel the proposed meeting. I urged you to reconsider the decision to cancel; I pointed out to you the damage that any such action would do to your credibility; and I requested that we meet later, the same day, upon your return from the West. Within the hour of that phone conversation, I sent you a short email, and then, late Monday, as I did not hear from you, I sent you a more detailed note. In both these communications (copies attached), I urged you not to cancel the proposed meeting of Political Party leaders.
2. On Tuesday, at short notice just before noon, I was asked to go to your office to brief the Military Council on this matter. This meeting was attended by you, the Attorney General (AG ) and the MC members. In this meeting, you reiterated your displeasure at being rushed into convening a meeting that you did not feel this was the right time to convene. You were enjoined on this view by the MC as well as the AG who indicated that the whole initiative was ill conceived, ill-advised and not timely. The consensus among you all seemed that if there was a way or reason to cancel the meeting, then you should but it was agreed, with much reluctance, to go ahead only as a face-saving exercise. The meeting then went on to discuss, with the recent High Court ruling that the Interim Government is legal as a backdrop, a number of related issues : on democracy and the need for elections; the need for political parties; on whether Fiji now needs international community support . The point was repeatedly stressed that the IG is now in a very strong position; and that in going forward ( “Taking Fiji Forward” ) it should be “ more independent” and stick to the vision (of the Peoples Charter ) .
3. I left that meeting feeling that I had lost your trust and confidence but more importantly, with a deep sense of dismay and disquiet. In our meeting yesterday, for which opportunity I am thankful, I tried to explain to you my concerns; and we agreed that I should, in reflecting further upon the various issues, to put all this to you in writing. I submit this to you in strict confidence, and request that you likewise share this with the members of the MC and the AG, before you respond to me.
4. First and foremost, please allow me to outline, in summary and albeit rather briefly, the objective basis of my coming forward to work with and to support you in the wake of 5 December, 06. In the reasons that you gave for removing the Qarase Government, and the “clean-up campaign” that you said you were resolved to effect, the following were some of the key elements of your change agenda :
· Sustainable democratic governance including transparent, accountable and just governance,
· Removing racism including race-based policies, structures, and institutions, and
· Achieving national unity.
5. While I personally do not support the military overthrow of elected governments, and had so indicated to you the very first time that we met in March 07, I fully supported the change agenda that you outlined. It was for this reason that I was prepared, of my own free will, to put my personal reputation on the line, to come and work with you and to actively support you, to help achieve such a progressive and unifying vision for Fiji and its people. I believe that so far, I have served with selfless dedication, with much personal sacrifice, and despite the persecution and vicious assaults on my character and motivation.
6. The Fiji that you inherited, as Interim PM, was on a precipitous path of decline. As a nation the country was deeply fractured and divided. Trust among its communities and confidence was at an all time low. The draft Peoples Charter has further developed and articulated your change agenda and vision for Fiji. This provides the more comprehensive framework for taking Fiji forward. Your resolve, to remain focused and committed, to taking Fiji forward through the Peoples Charter, is very clear and without doubt. The most critical question now is HOW ??
7. On this question of how, I submit to you that you, as PM and also head of RFMF, have essentially two options :
· One, to exercise visionary, unifying but strong, decisive and statesmanlike leadership. You must lead the way in bringing the communities together, in building trust and in restoring confidence and hope, for a better future. The changes that you seek are not “quick-fixes” and they cannot be rail-roaded if they are to be durable and effective. Under this option, you do things within the law and constitutionally, through dialogue and by building a broad-based consensus for and ownership of the change agenda. OR
· Two, your leadership adopts the modality of “my way forward is the only way”; and that in the face of continued resistance, you ( and the IG and RFMF ) resort to strong arm tactics and an increasingly dictatorial approach to governance. Under this scenario, the restoration of parliamentary, democratic governance gets shifted to a unspecified date into the future ie that elections are convened but only after the Peoples Charter is implemented.
8. I have to-date believed and worked on the understanding and premise that you (and indeed also the RFMF ) are genuinely committed to Option One as the path to follow to achieve the change agenda in the draft Peoples Charter.
However, my deep sense of dismay and disquiet stemmed from the fact that after listening to the discussions in the meeting last Tuesday, I had the distinct impression that, individually and collectively, you all seemed to be tending towards Option Two above. If my reading of what transpired in the Tuesday meeting is correct, then for me , that is unacceptable; and for that reason, I cannot and will not continue to serve now as Head, TASS. I should leave at the end of my current term which comes to an end next Friday.
9. I need to know of your position on the above, and indeed that of the IG and the RFMF in regard to the above.
10. I do not wish to repeatedly go over my very strong conviction on the indispensable role of a genuine political dialogue process to achieve your vision for a better Fiji in a sustainable democracy. I have always spoken of the advantages of carrying the people along with you on your solutions rather than imposing your solutions on them. In talking about the people of Fiji, you have already been reaching out to the grass roots people in an unprecedented way but you also need to work with the existing political institutions in Fiji, just as you have to work with other stakeholders and within the law. After the High Court decision, it is even more important for you to reach out early, and remain consistent, not only as a visionary and statesmanlike but also strong and decisive leader.
11. Before I conclude this note, let me please briefly touch on the forthcoming meeting of Political Party leaders.
12. It is important that Monday’s Meeting is conducted in a positive atmosphere and directed at some preliminary but solid outcomes which would give oxygen to the dialogue process. You should be aware that the outcomes from this meeting would be analyzed and scrutinized very carefully by the media, the international community, the business community and stakeholders. In this respect, it is important for you to agree on some core principles. It is suggested that these include:
Ø A strong commitment on the part of all to genuine dialogue and consultation,
Ø Commitment to electoral reform and restoring parliamentary democracy,
Ø Respect for differences,
Ø Looking for the positives rather than negatives in the participants,
Ø Using persuasion rather than dictatorial edicts,
Ø Humility rather than arrogance,
Ø Resolve to remain steadfast on the legal and constitutional path.
13. This forthcoming Monday meeting is yet another opportunity for you to show leadership that is visionary, outreaching and of statesman’s proportions. You will need consistency of message and language. You will need to be strong but this strength can only be derived from the people and not only through military strength.
14. I would think that you would feel greatly heartened by the euphoria created over the past few days by your announcement to call the all parties’ dialogue and without pre-conditions. I gather people across the country are talking about the dialogue with much hope and joy. It appears that the whole of Fiji is with you as you start the process, sharing their goodwill and giving their blessing and best wishes.
15. You would have also noted the positive statements from the Pacific Islands Forum and Australia. They have welcomed the process and even offered assistance. You would have noted that Australia, for the first time, did not mention March 2009 but changed their language to an “early elections”.
16. In conclusion, and in regard to the issue of whether or not I continue in my current role, I greatly appreciate that in our meeting yesterday, you were re-assuring, especially that you would like me to see the draft Peoples Charter work finalized, that it gets submitted to the NCBBF and then to the President by mid-December 08. I am prepared to continue and do this, plus more as you may need me to, if I can have your firm assurance that the path for moving Fiji forward would steadfastly follow Option One rather than Option Two, as outlined in para 7 above.
17. I am greatly appreciative and thankful that you have always afforded me the opportunity to be forthright in the way in which I engage and serve you. It is within this spirit that I submit this to you.
23 October, 08