Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Statement on the situation in Fiji
The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom extends solidarity and support to the people of Fiji who endure fear, anxiety, a deteriorating economic situation and media censorship under a military dictatorship. As the majority of the impoverished, women and their dependents bear the brunt of the economic insecurities.
In the December 2006 coup d’etat, Commodore Frank Bainimarama announced he had taken control of Fiji, placing elected leaders under house arrest, dissolving parliament and taking over the public service. In the economic downturn that has followed, due to a decrease in tourism and reluctance to trade with an unstable military regime, the unrepresented people have suffered. The coup leaders promised elections and a constitutional review process, for which Fijians and the international community have waited impatiently.
In April 2009, Fiji’s Court of Appeal rightly ruled that Commodore Bainimarama’s regime was illegal under the country’s 1997 constitution. In response, the judiciary were removed from office, the constitution formally dissolved, an election ruled out for five years and a 30-day state of emergency declared on 10 April under which criticism of the military regime was outlawed, international media coverage censored and reporters expelled from the country.
Military regimes are inherently violent; the threat and use of force replaces legitimate representation and the possibility of civil society engagement with government in an open and honest democratic dialogue. Military regimes repress the universally recognised rights to assemble, associate, freely move, express, receive and impart information freely.
Military regimes are illegitimate and unrepresentative of the population. Fiji’s membership of all regional and economic groups should be suspended immediately and the credentials of the delegations rejected by the United Nations. The United Nations must cease to accept Fiji’s troops in peacekeeping operations as they are clearly unqualified to keep peace, and misuse the funds accrued.
The situation in Fiji must remain on the agenda on the Pacific Forum, the Commonwealth and the United Nations, with robust and energetic efforts of the international community turned towards moving the country towards elections. The United Nations Security Council should remain seized of the situation, and the Secretary General should use his good offices to send mediators and appoint an Envoy. He should also ensure gender responsive humanitarian assistance, the effective participation of women in mediation teams and in the resolution of the crisis. Part of any political solution in Fiji must include genuine security sector reform to restore the military to its appropriate role.
WILPF women in over 40 countries are concerned about the safety of women working for peace and human rights. The skills and talents of the women of Fiji will be vital in restoring legitimate governance, a free media and an independent judiciary to that beautiful island.