FIJI NEWS

Fiji’s progress recognised

By LOSALINI RASOQOSOQO The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group yesterday welcomed the signifi cant progress made by Fiji towards general elections. This is since the group’s visit last year.
16 Feb 2014 10:21
The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (left) meeting the Fijian Government delegation led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (third from right) in Suva. Photo: MINFO NEWS

The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (left) meeting the Fijian Government delegation led by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola (third from right) in Suva. Photo: MINFO NEWS

By LOSALINI RASOQOSOQO

The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group yesterday welcomed the signifi cant progress made by Fiji towards general elections. This is since the group’s visit last year.
New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the registration of four political parties and the enrolment of more than 540,000 voters including enfranchising Fijians living overseas and the appointment of an independent Electoral Commission including the commencement of a dialogue between the Commission and political actors has been recognised.
“First for all we recognised the substantial progress that’s been made with preparation for elections not just the constitution and framework but also the substantial electoral enrolment programme and all the work in getting the electoral office ready to prepare for elections,” Mr McCully said.
“A number of countries present have already contributed particularly in the form of technical advice to that process so we’ve welcomed the work that’s been done. We have reaffirmed our commitment to ongoing support as that process goes forward but we also noted it’s pretty challenging and demanding.
“We shouldn’t take the logistical challenges for granted and I think that’s a good balanced approach to it.”
He said they were now looking forward to the early appointment of the Supervisor of Elections and the early release of the Elections Decree and the legal framework for elections.
He said they were pleased to hear the assurance from the Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Elections, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, that these steps were imminent.

EXPECTATIONS
Recalling the expectations of the people of Fiji and the international community for free and fair elections, Mr McCully said the Ministers reiterated the need for political parties’ full engagement in the electoral process, including the ability to meet freely and campaign openly.
He said the importance of ongoing improvements to media freedom, freedom of speech, association and assembly was also emphasised.
He said that it would be in Fiji’s interest that the election be judged on its openness and fairness according to accepted international standards.
It was revealed that the Ministers encouraged Fiji to welcome full international observation of the election to leave no doubt as to its legitimacy. They also emphasised the critical importance of access for international media.

PACIFIC ISLAND FORUM
RECOMMENDATION
Recognising the importance of greater regional trade and economic integration, Mr McCully said the Ministers have agreed to recommend to the Pacific Island Forum Leaders that Fiji be reinstated into the Forum.
This will include Fiji’s participation in PACER Plus negotiations and Forum Trade Ministers’ Meetings at ministerial level.
However, Mr McCully said this would be done after the elections.
He said it was something they hoped to be in a position to say it to their leaders after the elections that Fiji’s suspension should be lifted and welcomed back into the Forum.
“We are not asking anyone to plead for re-entry into the forum, it happens as a matter of course and once the suspension is lifted, the MCG is content in trying to give a quick assessment on post elections and to keep our leaders up to date and this way we can before hand,” Mr McCully said.

TRAVEL SANCTIONS
Mr McCully said New Zealand would continue to relax travel sanctions taking the lifting of the travel ban on the Fiji 7s team to play at the Wellington 7s as an example.
Australia Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the travel sanction was still under review. However, he said the past 56 requests for exemptions had been granted, with just one rejected, on technical grounds.




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