Monday, February 14, 2011

No Change to Pacific Forum Stance on Illegal Fiji Regime

Outcomes of meeting of Forum MCG on situation in Fiji



Port Vila, Vanuatu

14 February 2011

1.The Fourth meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) on Fiji met at the Vanuatu Reserve Bank Conference Room in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

2. The Meeting, which was chaired by the Honourable Meltek Sato Kilman Livtuvanu, MP, Prime Minister of Vanuatu, was attended by the Hon Richard Marles, MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, of Australia; the Hon Murray McCully, MP, Minister of Foreign Affairs, of New Zealand; the Hon Don Polye, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade & Immigration, of Papua New Guinea; the Hon Tuisugaletaua Sofara Aveau, Minister of Works, Transport and Infrastructure, of Samoa; and the Hon Apisai Ielemia, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour, of Tuvalu. At the invitation of the MCG Chair and its members, Fiji Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, also addressed the meeting on behalf of the Fiji Government.

3. The MCG discussed developments in Fiji, and as requested by Leaders at their 2010 Port Vila Forum Meeting, Ministers also discussed matters relating to Fiji’s participation in regional trade and economic processes and deliberations, including PACER Plus negotiations.

4. MCG Ministers reaffirmed that Forum concerns over the situation in Fiji reflected the underlying values of the Forum, namely the respect for democracy, good governance and the rule of law. The MCG noted the longstanding offer by Forum Leaders to support Fiji’s early return to parliamentary democracy in accordance with the Leaders’ mandates and the Biketawa Declaration, including through the provision of appropriate assistance. MCG Ministers encouraged Fiji to engage Forum members in a detailed dialogue on the types of assistance required to enable it to move forward on its plans as quickly as possible.

5. In his presentation, Fiji’s Foreign Minister advised the MCG of the steps Fiji is undertaking to progress its vision for “A Better Fiji”. The Foreign Minister advised that the Fiji Government has determined a framework supported under the People’s Charter for Change, Peace and Progress; the Roadmap for Democracy and Sustainable Socio-Economic Development 2009-2014; and the Strategic Framework for Change.

6. MCG Ministers noted the need for concrete steps to restore democracy in Fiji. Ministers strongly encouraged Fiji to restore democracy as soon as possible, noting that a constitutionally elected government is essential to ensuring that necessary steps are taken to build investor confidence and grow the economy. MCG Ministers also noted the continued extension of the Public Emergency Regulations (PER), promulgated on 10 April 2009, expressing concern that the PER is an infringement on the basic human and democratic rights of Fiji citizens. 

7. The Fiji Foreign Minister advised that Fiji accepted the 2009 Forum Leaders decision on Fiji. The Foreign Minister confirmed Fiji’s willingness to invite the MCG to visit Fiji in the near future. MCG Ministers warmly welcomed his invitation and indicated such a visit would provide an important opportunity for them to meet with stakeholders in order to appreciate the political, social and economic challenges currently facing Fiji and support its efforts to resume full parliamentary democracy.

8. As requested by Forum Leaders, the MCG also discussed Fiji’s participation in regional trade and economic meetings and agreed to make recommendations to the 2011 Forum Leaders meeting on possible modalities for better engaging Fiji in these discussions. Such recommendations will be conveyed in a report to Leaders from the MCG which will be prepared following their planned visit to Fiji.


Fiji democracy on agenda at Pacific meeting 
Australia Network News

The Australian Parliamentary Secretary for the Pacific, Richard Marles, in Vanuatu last November. Ministers and officials from across the Pacific are discussing their relationships with Fiji at a Ministerial Contact Group meeting this week in Vanuatu. [DFAT]  

Australia's Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs has reaffirmed his country's view that Fiji should hold democratic elections before 2014. 

Ministers and officials from across the Pacific, including Richard Marles, are discussing their relationships with Fiji during a Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) meeting this week in Vanuatu. 

Speaking on Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program, Mr Marles said Australia has a firm view to see the interim government re-establish human rights and freedom of the press. 

"We have seen Fiji now since 2006 with this interim government in an unelected form, with an absence of democracy in that country and that's obviously a very big concern for the region." 

The Pacific Islands Forum created the MCG as a way of continuing dialogue with Commodore Frank Bainimarama and his interim government. 

Fiji's Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola is also attending the Vanuatu meeting. 

Fiji visit 

Mr Marles said they want to hear from Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, about a range of things. 

"We do want to hear from the interim Prime Minister about the public emergency regulations, for example, which have been in place in Fiji since 2009, which put significant restrictions on the media, which compromise human rights in Fiji," he said. 

"We would like to know what their future is. We do want to hear what steps the interim regime are looking at taking, concrete steps towards a return to democracy." 

He added that members of the MCG also want to visit Fiji after an invitation to visit last year was withdrawn by Commodore Bainimarama. 

"I know in speaking to others [Sunday], there was a desire to pursue a visit to Fiji, but it obviously has to be on the basis that we have complete access to the political parties in Fiji, to the civil society in Fiji and to the church leaders in Fiji, so that we can have a really good understanding of where the country's at and where all opinions are at in Fiji about its future," said Mr Marles. 

Foreign sanctions 

Fiji's interim Foreign Affairs Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, is expected to ask for an easing of foreign sanctions on his country at this week's meeting. 

However, Richard Marles said Australia would not consider that at the moment. 

"Before you talk about an easing of sanctions and an easing of the international response to Fiji, we've got to actually see some concrete steps on their part on a return towards a return to democracy and a return to the rule of law and a return of human rights," he said.

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