International critics of the current regime in Fiji, which came to power after a coup in 2006, need to show patience as political and constitutional reforms are introduced to overcome years of “mismanagement, corruption and nepotism,” the country’s Prime Minister told the General Assembly today.
In an address to the fourth day of the Assembly’s annual General Debate, Commodore Josaia Bainimarama said the abrogation of the Fijian constitution in May this year – a move sharply criticized by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Security Council and UN human rights experts – had been a necessary step to fill a legal vacuum created by an earlier court ruling.
Mr. Bainimarama said he has since unveiled a road map to take Fiji to a new constitution by September 2013 with elections scheduled for a year after that.
“The basis for the new constitution will be the ideals and principles formulated by the People’s Charter for Change and Progress, a document prepared following widespread consultation with, and input from, the people of Fiji,” he said.
Consultations will be held “with all the ordinary citizens of our country as well as civil society groups,” he added, noting that they will focus on such issues as the size of a new parliament, the term of office of a government and the sustainability of a bicameral parliament.
Mr. Bainimarama said critics of the long timetable for the new constitution and democratic elections did not appreciate Fiji’s “peculiar” history.
“Our post-colonial period has been punctuated with political instability,” he said. “On each occasion that a new government is voted into power, the old elite which benefited financially from the previous established government has been able to successfully destabilize the government and replace it with its own supporters and representatives.”
Mr. Bainimarama said Fijians had already experienced too many “Band-Aid” solutions that did not work in the long term.
“Fiji has suffered more than 20 years of mismanagement, corruption and nepotism. Our infrastructure, our judicial system and our systems of accountability have all remained under-developed and unproductive. Many of our finest brains have left the country to migrate because they could see no future in a country governed by ethno-nationalism, corruption and greed.
“In order to ensure that democracy has a real chance of survival in Fiji’s future, serious and principled reforms must be implemented to build roads, institutions and values… The way of the old elite must never triumph again.”
Voicing dismay that Fiji’s neighbours “have shown a surprising lack of understanding and disregard” of his country’s situation, the Prime Minister urged them to show patience.
He also expressed disappointment at “what appears to be a unilateral decision on the part of the United Nations to debar our country from any new peacekeeping operations. To this day, we have not been able to receive a clear and satisfactory reply on this matter from the United Nations. I express the hope that the United Nations will deal equitably and fairly with troop-contributing countries.”