Thursday, April 03, 2008

Coups should be cause for concern, NZ warns

Coups should be cause for concern, NZ warns

Wednesday, April 02,

THE occurrence of coups in the past 20 years should be cause for concern for regional countries who are stakeholders in regional institutions based in Fiji, said a spokesman for the New Zealand Minister for Foreign Affairs, Winston Peters.

The spokesman said it was important given the fact that a stable political environment where regional activities could be conducted needed to be nurtured.

In his interview with Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program last week, Mr Peters said there were a number of regional institutions based here and this was a fact the interim Government needed to take heed of as these regional institutions could easily take their students and support elsewhere if the interim Government continued to delay elections.

A response to queries sent from the NZ High Commission said "a spokesman for the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that the minister's comments were drawing attention to the fact that Fiji is the host of a number of regional institutions and that the successive coups in the last 20 years was a source of considerable concern for regional countries participating in these institutions given the importance of nurturing a stable political environment for the conduct of regional activities".

Meanwhile, the Pacific Islands Forum media officer, Johnson Honimae, said 119 staff were employed at the Forum Secretariat and of these 82 were locals and 37 were expatriates.

On Monday, PIFS deputy secretary general Feleti Teo said there had been no discussions by members of Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific in relation to the possible withdrawal of regional institutions. Mr Teo said the issue of withdrawal of regional institutions had not been discussed by CROP members.

It is understood that seven regional institutions are based here apart from PIFS and these are the University of the South Pacific, Fiji School of Medicine, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), South Pacific Applied Geocience Commission (SOPAC), South Pacific Board for Educational Assessment and the South Pacific Travel.

"The recent forum foreign affairs ministers meeting in Auckland focus their discussions on a credible road map for fair, free and open general elections in March 2009 and what assistance may be rendered to Fiji to achieve that," said Mr Teo.

"There was no discussion on what will happen if elections do not take place."

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