|Sri Lanka seeks early return of democracy in Fiji|
|Monday, 29 September 2008 18:34|
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rohitha Bogollagama emphasized the need for a time bound approach to facilitate Fiji’s return to democratic rule, while addressing the 30th meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) held in New York last Saturday (27 September 2008). The Minister referred to the Commonwealth stipulated deadline of March 2009 for elections to be held in order that a democratically elected government could be established. He further observed that in the event this condition was not fulfilled, the Commonwealth would have to consider further action after taking ground realities into account and apply the Millbrook Plan of Action.
The Minister pointed out that while the initiative of a “President’s Forum” to facilitate political dialogue for electoral reforms was a positive initiative, the envisaged role had been stymied due to a number of disagreements among the stakeholders. He said that the issues are not insurmountable, but needed the sincere political will to this end.
Minister Bogollagama said that the role being performed by the Pacific Island Forum is important in bringing about a democratic solution to the question of governance in Fiji. He stated that Sri Lanka supports the continued regional and international efforts to achieve legitimate constitutional rule in Fiji and requested the Commonwealth Secretary General to continue his engagement in this endeavour. The CMAG decided to meet in early 2009 to review the progress and consider further measures if necessary, consistent with the Millbrook Plan of Action.
Foreign Minister Bogollagama also met with the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, David Miliband on the sidelines of the CMAG meeting. He outlined the action taken by the Sri Lanka Government in re-establishing democratic rule in the Eastern Province after having cleared the LTTE from that area through targeted military engagement. He referred to the conduct of the Local Government and Provincial Council elections in the East resulting in the election of a Chief Minister, a former child soldier, initially of the LTTE and now representing the political faction of its renegade group the TMVP. The Minister recalled the meeting between Lord Mark Malloch Brown, Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province during his recent visit to Sri Lanka. He explained that the strategy which was followed in the Eastern Province is being replicated in the North and that military engagement was necessary to eradicate terrorism from that region, in order to create the necessary ground conditions for the establishment of democratic institutions.
The Minister also took the opportunity to refer to Sri Lanka’s application for the extension of the EU GSP + facility. He pointed out that having successfully overcome the challenge of terrorism and re-established democracy in the Eastern Province, the empowerment of the people is a major priority for the Government. Therefore, obstacles which hinder Sri Lanka’s market access to the EU would only serve to hurt the people. In this context, he hoped that the EU would consider this aspect when examining Sri Lanka’s application for the extension of the EU GSP + facility.
Sri Lanka Permanent Mission to the UN
29 September 2008