Sir Paul Reeves is rightly being remembered for his wide-ranging contribution to New Zealand society.
I wish to remember him as one of our foremost international peacemakers, particularly because of his work in Fiji and Guyana.
Sir Paul’s quiet manner and sense of fairness saw him chosen to head the Fiji Constitution Review Commission in 1995. After the Commission had reported back I attended an Auckland meeting where he explained how the Commission had engaged in wide grassroots consultation, and why it had reached its conclusions. I was very impressed.
Unfortunately the final distribution of seats in the 1997 Fiji Constitution departed from the Commission’s proposals, reducing the number of general (non-racial) seats in the Parliament from 45 to 25 (out of a total 71 seats). The Commission’s more balanced proposal might have helped avoid the two coups that followed.
After the 2006 coup the Commonwealth Secretary General entrusted Sir Paul with the task of seeking a path forward to democracy, his diplomatic skills making him an obvious choice. Due to Commodore Bainimarama’s intransigence it has been a thankless task, but Sir Paul kept at it.
Sir Paul’s work in helping resolve difficult issues in Guyana, with its longstanding African/Indian divide has also been valuable.