McCully and Carr Take Heart from 'Bold' Fiji Statementnt

 Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Alex Perrottet in Suva
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully and his Australian counterpart Bob Carr have received strong assurances that Fiji is well on its way to democracy and have acknowledged that Fiji “is in a state of transition”.

Murray McCully(L), Bob Carr (R)
McCully, who is Chair of the Forum Ministerial Contact Group visiting Fiji, today  said the outlook was “very positive” but there was still concern over basic freedoms being observed. “We were encouraged by the reports we received today about the firm intention to hold elections in 2014 and the reports about the machinery put in place to make those elections possible,” he said.


Many reassuring voices
“We found it reassuring to receive those very strong statements from a number of levels of the administration here.”
The visiting group released a statement which welcomed assurances that the constitutional consultation will be opened to all, that the elections would be free and fair, and that that there would be no media restrictions leading to the promised elections in 2014.

McCully said he was told the country was moving through transitions that would see those freedoms “increasingly observed”.
Carr and Samoa's Fiame Naomi Mata’afa.
He said even the views of critics of the current military-led government gave them encouragement to “take heart” in Fiji, and to “take account of the bold statements made today about where things will be in a few months time”.
“We need to move forward here.”

On the ground
He also acknowledged it has been some time between visits.
“We haven’t had one to Suva for the last three years,” he said. “We haven’t had a meeting for some time and it’s been useful to talk to people on the ground here.”
Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr defended the fact that he is the first Foreign Minister to visit since Stephen Smith in 2008.
“I have come here because there was an encouraging sign from Fiji in the commitment to a constitutional process, a commitment to a constitutional consultation,” he said.
“That was the matter that changed. That was the promise of improvement that has made it possible for me to visit.”
He denied a suggestion that because Fiji had promised the constitutional process for some time, the attitude from Fiji on this visit was one of “we told you so”.
“No not remotely, not remotely. I am here, because there was the announcement of the membership of a constitutional consultation body. That has made it possible for us to come here and engage.”

‘Preconceived ideas’ tested
Carr also defended himself against Fiji Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s earlier remarks that he had come to Fiji with preconceived ideas.
“Of course I came with preconceived ideas, everyone comes with preconceived ideas but we tested them.

PNG Foreign Minister Ano Pala
PNG Foreign Affairs Minister Ano Pala
I asked a question about trade union freedom, I asked a question about the Methodists being able to have their conference approved so that they can gather, freedom of church assembly. I asked questions about other basic rights, freedom of the media and freedom of the international media coming into Fiji.
“We’re entitled to apply the test to them and see how they implement the things they said to us they would do.”
He said it was now a matter of waiting to see “progress on the ground”.
McCully said the Ministerial Contact Group was concerned that no parliamentary seats in the new constitution should be reserved for the military.
Apart from McCully and Carr, the group was comprised of PNG Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Ana Pala, Samoan Minister of Justice Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Tuvalu Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour Apisai Lelemia, and Vanuatu Minister of Foreign Affairs Alfred Carlot.
The group will report back to the Pacific Islands Forum leaders in the following weeks and will update the PIF in Rarotonga this year.
Alex Perrottet is contributing editor of the Pacific Media Centre’s Pacific Media Watch freedom project and is visiting Fiji for the UNESCO global free press activities.

Comments

sister saras said…
The Fijian authorities should not take much notice of what Carr is saying, negative or positive. He wont be there next year. Along with Gillard he will be history, like Anna Bligh. Spend time and effort on Abbott and Julie Bishop. They seem to be more understanding of the situation in Fiji, and 2014 will be just around the corner when Australia will have an "elected" PM and FM. At the moment, it is effectively "the pot calling the kettle black". I am sure Abbott and Bishop will be more friendly and understanding towards an important and stategically located neighbour.
Anonymous said…
there is no need for Aus and Nz to change a thing, we don't have any needs regarding fiji and if the regime wants a 'go slow' on return to democracy then so be it. Irrespective of Australia's political cirmcumstances ,we don't ever have to resort to military intervention to tell us how things should be.

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