The Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) of the Pacific Islands Forum has issued a guarded statement about the progress of the democratic process in Fiji, following its meeting at the country’s capital Suva last week.
The meeting, chaired by New Zealand’s Foreign Minister Murray McCully on April 12, 2013, heard briefing by Fijian Foreign Minister Inoke Kubuabola, Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, other leaders and representatives of various community groups and unions to assess the state of affairs in the South Pacific nation.
Mr McCully said that the visiting ministers assessed Fiji’s political Roadmap, the progress made last year in the electoral process, the extensive consultation and the work of the independent Constitution Commission.
“But we expressed concerns about departure from Fiji’s previously announced Roadmap process and emphasises the need for a constitution-building process that enjoys the support of the people of Fiji and the respect of the international community,” he said in a statement issued on behalf of the Group.
Mr McCully recalled the assurances given by Fiji’s Interim Government during the visit of the Group last year (Indian Newslink, May 15, 2012) that elections would be held no later than September 2014, there would be no media restrictions relating to the constitutional consultation process, and that elections would be free and fair.
According to the Group, free and fair elections could be assured through (a) a final version of the new constitution that takes into account public views with credibility (b)
An independent mechanism to supervise the election established quickly and (c) free and fair participation of political parties in the electoral process commencing with fair and timely registration.
“The Ministers also believe that free and fair elections should mean freedom of expression, media and assembly in the lead up to the election and beyond. It is also important that there is general acceptance of the election outcome by the people of Fiji,” Mr McCully said.
Apart from Mr McCully, the Group comprised Australian Senator and Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Affairs Matt Thistlethwaite, Papua New Guinea Foreign Minister Rimbink Pato, Samoa Communication & Information Technology Minister Tuisugaletaua Ali’imalemanu Sofara Aveau, Tuvalu Foreign Minister Apisai Ielemia and Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister & Foreign Minister Edward Natapei.
The picture here shows Mr McCully (Centre) with Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General Tuiloma Neroni Slade and Mr Aveau at the meeting held in Fiji on April 12, 2013 (Picture Courtesy: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Fiji).