Thursday, October 18, 2007

Interim PM: Polls in 2009

Thursday, October 18, 2007

FIJI will go to the polls in the first quarter of 2009 and the military will accept the outcome of the general election.

That undertaking was made by interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum retreat on Vava'u Island in Tonga yesterday.

Following a presentation on the situation in Fiji and his undertaking to the Forum, the leaders based on consensus agreed to a seven-point decision.

The new chairman of the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum and Prime Minister of Tonga, Dr Feleti Sevele, New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer broke with tradition to call a press conference after lunch to deliver the outcome of the meeting.

Ms Clark said they would only ease sanctions on Fiji once they were satisfied that the interim Government had demonstrated a genuine commitment to a credible roadmap that would be developed by Fiji with the Forum's Fiji-Joint Working Group.

She said they would not promise to lift the travel bans until they saw a commitment.

"We need to see benchmarks met. New Zealand is clear it will support a return to constitutional government and we need to see that commitment from Fiji on the basis of the undertaking today (yesterday) embedded in a proper plan,'' Ms Clark said.

Mr Downer also committed Australia to relaxing restrictive measures placed on Fiji but, like New Zealand, it hinged on following the roadmap in line with the objectives of the Forum.

"We can also do more than that, on top of the money we have already put into the census.

"We can provide resources to help with the Electoral Commission, the Boundaries Commission and the election itself,'' Mr Downer said.

SDL National Director Peceli Kinivuwai said Commodore Bainimarama had reiterated the same sentiments on the election date at the UN Assembly last month.

"The party only hopes he is genuine and sincere on taking us to the polls in 2009 since there has been fear and insecurity within the people," he said.

"It is time to go to the polls so they can decide who should lead them and have a Parliament back in place."

National Federation Party secretary Pramod Rae declined to comment on the issue.

A press conference and communiqu at the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum are usually done at the end of the summit and not halfway through it as Dr Sevele, Ms Clark and Mr Downer.

They agreed it was heartening to get Cmdr Bainimarama's undertaking and they were looking forward to a roadmap based on Fiji's Constitution and laws.

The three leaders said the outcome of the leaders morning session was an illustration of the effectiveness of the Forum.

Here is what the Forum agreed on yesterday regarding the Fiji situation:

Endorse the findings of the Eminent Persons Group Report following its mission to Fiji from January 29 to February 1, 2007 and the outcomes of the Forum Foreign Ministers' Meeting in March 2007 as an appropriate way forward to the restoration of constitutional and democratic government in Fiji;

Welcome the undertaking by the leader of the Fiji interim Government to the Forum Leaders today (yesterday) that a parliamentary election will be held in the first quarter of 2009, and note that he has also stated to Forum Leaders that he and the Republic of Fiji Military Forces will accept the outcome of the elections in the first quarter of 2009;

Calls on the Fiji interim Government now to work with the Forum-Joint Working Group to produce a credible roadmap to those elections at that time according to the Constitution and law of Fiji, and urges the interim Government to accord the highest priority to this task;

Note that the interim Government is pursuing an initiative to produce a People's Charter;

Express appreciation for the support which members of the international community have accorded to the Forum's actions in addressing the pathway to election by the first quarter of 2009;

Commend the work carried out by the Fiji-Forum Joint Working Group in seeking to advance the pathway to elections by the first quarter of 2009; and

Call for a meeting of the Forum Foreign Ministers in January next year to review the progress being made towards the election in the first quarter of 2009.

Both Australia and New Zealand stand ready to assist Fiji but it would be on the basis of a credible roadmap that will lead to the polls in 2009.

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