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Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group Meeting

Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

My noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Lord Triesman of Tottenham) attended an Extraordinary Meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on 8 December in response to the recent coup in Fiji.*

Lord Triesman along with all members of the CMAG condemned the unconstitutional overthrow of the Fiji Government and agreed with other members of CMAG that such action constitutes a serious violation of the Commonwealth’s fundamental principles as set out in the Harare Commonwealth Declaration. It was therefore decided by the Group, in accordance with the steps set out in the Millbrook Commonwealth Action Programme on the Harare Declaration, that Fiji’s military regime should be suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth with immediate effect awaiting re-establishment of democracy and the rule of law within the country. The implications of suspension mean that Fiji will be unable to participate in Ministerial meetings of the Commonwealth such as CHOGM, and will not receive new technical assistance under the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation. Nor can they receive contacts with the Commonwealth Secretariat, other than those of a mediatory nature in pursuit of the return of democracy.

The Group has urged both bilateral and multilateral actions from Commonwealth member countries to encourage a speedy return to democratic governance within Fiji. CMAG recognised that these actions should be directed to the fullest extent possible at the military regime and were not primarily intended to impact on the population. The CMAG recognised the importance of ensuring that the Fiji people should have the right to select a government of their choice through democratic means. CMAG agreed to send a mission to Fiji to mediate with all parties and to encourage a swift return to democracy. Such a mission may be carried out in conjunction with the UN and/or the Pacific Islands Forum and is likely to take place in the new year.

CMAG hopes that the restrictions imposed on Fiji, including the suspension of the military regime from the Council of Europe, will urge a swift return to a democratic and lawful society. The Commonwealth stands ready to help with this process.

*CMAG members: Malta, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, United Kingdom, Canada, Lesotho, Malaysia, St Lucia and Sri Lanka