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Fijian Methodist activist visits Brisbane

A leading NGO leader from Fiji will be speaking at the University of Queensland on Monday afternoon, July 20, bringing a rare and highly informed view of what is happening and likely to happen in Fiji, now under a military dictatorship and suspended from major regional and global organizations.

Rev Akuila Yabaki, CEO of the Fiji governance and human rights NGO, the Citizen’s Constitutional Forum (CCF), and a Fiji Methodist Minister, will be speaking on "Breaking the Cycle of Coups".

The Citizens’ Constitutional Forum (CCF) has existed since 1993 when concerned citizens of Fiji resuscitated an earlier effort on the part of the late Martin Ennals of International Alert to interest the churches in sponsoring peace-building dialogue across religious and ethnic divisions, and began to hold national consultations on constitutional matters.

Since then, the CCF has steered a path through Fiji’s coups of 2000 – 2001, again in 2006, and continues its work for civic and constitutional education, dialogue and reconciliation. At times, the organization, and Rev Yabaki himself, have been subjected to attacks from several sides in Fiji politics.

"Yes, it’s true that our Constitution has been abrogated. However, basic human rights still exist globally – and this includes the right of freedom of speech. Every human being has the right to freedom of speech and although the Public Emergency Regulation is in force … we have to try and work a way around this censorship.

"People are not so forthcoming for fear of victimisation, whereby they could lose their jobs and all interviews are being screened as directed by the regime. This does not augur well for a solution.

"Instead we need to keep the dialogue open. And, as I have mentioned before, there were some discriminatory overtones in the last Parliament but that does not mean that freedom of expression should be curtailed altogether," Rev Yabaki said on New Zealand radio recently.

Rev Yabaki’s visit to the University of Queensland to share his insights is being organized by the Uniting Church’s Church Solidarity (Pacific) desk of UnitingWorld, the Church’s international mission arm, and hosted by the UQ School of Journalism and Communication.

"I’ve known of the CCF for several years, admired the course they’ve been steering through the murky, and sometimes dangerous shoals of Fijian politics, and I’ve met Rev Yabaki in Suva several times," Dr Mark Hayes, a specialist in Pacific media and journalism at the UQ Journalism School said.

"With no un-censored news getting out of Fiji since Easter, 2006, hearing from a significant bserver and even player in Fijian affairs will give us a rare insight and first hand update on what’s going on there, particularly as the Pacific Forum Heads of Government meeting in Cairns in early August will have Fiji at the top of its agenda," Dr Hayes said.

Rev Yabaki’s talk on "Breaking the Cycle of Coups", followed by a question and answer session, commences at 4pm on Monday, July 20, on Level Two of the Joyce Ackroyd Building, Building 37, University of Queensland St Lucia campus.

Further Information: Dr John Harrison,
Ph.: 3346 8234 E-mail: click here