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By EPINERI VULA
It’s been announced in Brisbane, Australia, that Fiji will unveil its new constitution next month.
The announcement has been made by Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola at the 20th Australia-Fiji Business Forum.
Ratu Inoke told delegates at the forum that the new constitution would guarantee “for the time, political, economic and social rights for all Fijians, including access to basic services”.
At the same time Ratu Inoke has taken a swipe at Canberra and Wellington.
“We imagined – perhaps naively – that our bigger neighbours – Australia and New Zealand – might at least try to understand what we were trying to achieve. But they turned their backs on us and set about trying to damage the country in the hope that they would destroy our reformist government,” he said.
“It is not easy to forget Australia’s efforts at the United Nations to bring an end to our three-decade long commitment to UN peacekeeping.
“It is not easy to forget the Australian Government’s action in severing our access to loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
“It is not easy to forget the travel bans that are still in place and have led to inconvenience and heartbreak and deprived us of the ability to attract the best people to run our government departments and even serve on the boards of our public enterprises and utilities.”
He says Australia-Fiji relations have taken a new turn.
“When Australia stops trying to damage Fiji – which it is still doing – only then can we can begin to rebuild the political relationship, including the restoration of full diplomatic ties. But it will be a different relationship. The events of the past seven years have made it so,” he said.
“When it comes to global and regional politics, we have taken a different path and forged new relationships with countries that proved to be more understanding and less prescriptive, who understood what we were doing rather than telling us what to do.
“Fiji no longer looks to just Australia and New Zealand as our natural allies and protectors, we look to the World. Jolted from our complacency by the doors that were slammed in our faces, we looked North – to the great powers of Asia, especially China, India and Indonesia and more recently to Russia. We looked South, to the vast array of nations, big and small, that make up the developing world and we currently chair the G77, the biggest voting bloc at the United Nations. And we looked to our Melanesian neighbours, to forge closer ties with them and use our collective strength to make our voices heard in global forums and secure better trading deals for us all.
“So while whoever wins the Fijian election next year will doubtless find a more accommodating attitude in Canberra, on the Fijian side our attitudes have changed irrevocably.
“We are keen to rebuild the relationship but not on the same basis. We want mutual understanding and respect and to be regarded as equals, just as we pursue all of our international relationships under our overarching policy to be “friends to all”.”
Full details in Tuesday’s Fiji Sun newspaper.