The Eminent Persons Group’s Report

The Forum Eminent Persons Group (EPG) has completed its report after consultations with local stakeholders on the country’s situation. According to PACNEWS, the Report says that a wide cross section of the community feels that the continuing State of Emergency in the country is unwarranted, and is a major obstacle to a return to normality and the resumption of the rule of law.

The report recommends that Cdt Frank Bainimarama retire as the interim prime minister and appoint a civilian to the position.
The EPG noted that support for the ousted government among the indigenous Fijians remains strong despite being reticent about expressing their opinions publicly and adds that polarisation of support for the interim government and the ousted government will further complicate the situation.

It found that the Human Rights Commission has been undermined by internal disputes and politicisation and that the work of the judiciary, police and government services have been compriomised since the events of 05 December 2006. It said that due process was not followed in the termination of contracts of most government chief executive officers.

The majority of those with whom they spoke were not convinced that the extra constutional actions of the Commander and President could be upheld under the doctrine of necessity. « Following discussions and analysis of the legal precedents in relation to the doctrine of necessity, the EPG is persuaded by the majority view that the RFMF’s takeover of government was unlawful. »

It adds that it was unlikely that the interim government would reconvene parliament and to restore constitutional governments drawn from the elected members of parliament. EPG left the determination of the legality of the removal of the Laisenia Qarase Government with the « properly constituted Fiji courts of law ».

The four member group was led by Mr Sato Kilman who is the deputy Prime Minister of Vanuatu and Minister for Foreign Affairs. The group includes, retired Chief Justice of PNG Sir Arnold Arnet, Samoa’s Environment Minister Faumuina Liuga and retired Commander of the Australian Defence Force General Peter Cosgrove. The group met with President Ratu Josefa Iloilo, members of the interim and ousted governments including Frank Bainimarama and Lasenia Qarase. They also met the chairman of the BLV (GCC), former vice president Ratu Joni Madraiwiwi, the Fiji Human Rights Commission, Ombudsman’s office, business community, civil society - Unions, NGO’s, religious groups, media, Forum member countries in Fiji and Post Forum Dialogue Partners in Fiji.

Their terms of reference included :
-  To assess the underlying causes and the nature of the overthrow of the Government of Fiji by the RFMF
-  To assess the prospects for appropriate resolution of the present situation in Fiji in the short and medium term, and obstacles to such a resolution;
-  To identify steps that parties in Fiji may take to move swiftly and peacefully to restoration of democratic government within the boundaries of the constitution and rule of law

Published on 19/03/2007

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