Weekender

Sorrowful sanctions imposed on Fiji

Written By : MELA TUILEVUKA. Neighbouring countries Australia and New Zealand have imposed sanctions on Fiji since the overthrow of its democratically elected government on December 5, 2006. So far,
18 Jul 2008 12:00

image Written By : MELA TUILEVUKA. Neighbouring countries Australia and New Zealand have imposed sanctions on Fiji since the overthrow of its democratically elected government on December 5, 2006.
So far, the interim regime has been looking elsewhere for aid and support from other countries.
One may think the sanctions imposed by our two very close neighbouring countries depict their anger on what had transpired but it is the total opposite.
In fact, their actions of imposing sanctions in Fiji is one of sorrow and not hate.
This was revealed by the two Foreign Affairs ministers from both countries this week during the Forum Ministerial Contact Group visit to Fiji.
Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith said their actions of imposing sanctions for Fiji is very straight-forward.
“Sanctions are imposed in sorrow and not in anger of what has transpired in Fiji,” he said.
“The imposed sanctions are our response to the overthrow of a democratically elected government,” he added.
Mr Smith said they did not impose sanctions out of anger but out of pity and sorrow for what has happened in our country.
He said, they would only lift the sanctions if they see that real progress is taking place.
“We want Fiji to return to the region as a fully fledged member of the Pacific Islands Forum,” he said.
The same sentiments were echoed by New Zealand’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Winston Peters who said that Fiji had been forewarned of the sanctions if another coup took place.
“We believe in democracy,” Mr Peters said.
“We had imposed sanctions when the May 2000 coup took place and we had also warned that further repercussions would eventuate if another coup happened and it did,” he said.
Mr Peters said sanctions would be lifted by New Zealand if it is of the view that real progress towards electing a democratically elected government is taking place.
The two ministers were part of the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group that concluded its visit to Fiji this week, saying its discussions with the interim government had been frank and informative.
Mr Peters said the ministerial group’s optimism or pessimism on having a democratically elected government let alone a fair election for Fiji can be questioned after they have submitted a report to other Forum Leaders in preparation for the 39th annual meeting, which is to be held in Niue next month.
During their visit and talks with interim Prime Minister Commodore Bainimarama, interim ministers, relevant officials including the Electoral Commission, Office of the Supervisor of Elections and the National Council for Building a Better Fiji, the group hoped that Fiji is indeed heading for elections come March next year.
Mr Peters said there is a lot of time from now until the end of March next year for Fiji to prepare itself to elect a democratic government and that other forum countries are prepared to provide technical assistance during elections.
“The election by the end of March is imminent and so far we neither have heard or seen anything that would halt the elections come next year,” he said.
Mr Peters came on hard when questioned by members of the media why it was pushing for elections in the first place when Fiji was not ready.
Mr Peters said he is of the view and is confident that majority of Fiji citizens want to have elections despite local leaders reiterating that there would be a delay because the electoral and constitutional reforms needed to be in place.
“What is the purpose of organising reforms both electoral and constitutional when you don’t have the chance to put it into action without a democratically elected government in parliament,” he added.
“Electoral and constitutional reforms should not be used as delay a tactic for an upcoming election in the first quarter of next year.”
“The reforms would be of no use at all if it does not have the mandate of a democratically elected government to put the reforms into action,” he said.
Mr Peters said the ministerial group’s optimism or pessimism on having a democratically elected government for Fiji can be questioned after they have submitted a report to other Forum Leaders in preparation for the 39th annual meeting, which is to be held in Niue next month.



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