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By LOSALINI RASOQOSOQO
The government of Ireland hopes to learn from Fiji and share its own experiences as both countries attempt to bring about political inclusivity and sustainable constitutional reform.
The President of Ireland, Michael Higgins, expressed his country’s interest while meeting with Fiji’s Ambassador to Ireland, Solo Mala, at the Presidential House in Dublin.
Mr Mara was there to present his credentials formalising his appointment.
He briefed Mr Higgins on the implementation of the Roadmap to Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development to bring about a Constitution by 2013 that promotes social and racial equality, political inclusiveness and provides for equal economic opportunities for all Fijians.
Mr Higgins, who is spearheading a constitutional dialogue in Ireland, said Fiji and Ireland could learn from each other.
He conveyed his best wishes for the constitutional process to be undertaken in Fiji.
In an opinion piece in the Irish Times that ran on Friday June 22, Constitutional reform expert, Michele Brandt, emphasised the need for the Irish constitutional dialogue to be more inclusive.
“A truly inclusive approach draws all key stakeholders in. Efforts must be made to engage meaningfully with more marginalised sectors of society including women, young people, people with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, disadvantaged groups, migrants and non-citizen actors.
“Official participation opportunities now include civic education and public information campaigns; widespread public consultation, which can occur at several stages of the process; the serious consideration of the views of the public; the promotion of national dialogue; and implementation efforts post-adoption of the constitution.”
This approach is similar to that implemented under Fiji’s Roadmap to Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development towards a new constitution.
Mr Higgins in meeting Mr Mara also acknowledged the areas of co-operation between Fiji and Ireland in international forums like the United Nations, particularly on the important issues of climate change, disarmament, sustainable development and UN Peacekeeping.
He noted that Fijian and Irish troops have served well together under the UN banner in places like Lebanon and Iraq.
Mr Mara said that he will work to not only maintain the cordial relation that exist between our two island nations but also to explore new areas of cooperation as a way to develop further the healthy bilateral relationship that currently exists.
Mr Mara also met with the Minister responsible for Trade, Sports and Tourism to discuss areas of co-operation between the two countries.