Australia’s Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, is among a delegation from the Pacific Forum that wound up a day-long series of consultations in Suva today with the Fiji Government, opposition figures, non-government organisations, trade unions and other civil groups. The communique below acknowledges, for the first time, that the Bainimarama regime is serious about holding elections in 2014 and has a cogent plan to deliver them. Unfortunately, it doesn’t signal any immediate change in the Forum’s hard line stance against Fiji. So called “smart sanctions” will continue to apply and Fiji will continue to be suspended from the Forum. Much will depend on the written report that the Ministerial Contact Group eventually produces for consideration at the next meeting of Forum leaders in the Cooks Islands in August.
THIRD VISIT OF THE FORUM MINISTERIAL CONTACT GROUP (MCG) ON FIJI
1st May 2012
1. The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) concluded its visit to Fiji today.
2. The MCG thanked Fiji for making officials available for meetings. The MCG considered the exchanges and briefing useful for bringing them up to date on developments in Fiji.
3. The MCG also met with Fijian politicians and representatives of civil society and unions, and welcomed their perspectives which have contributed to the MCG’s understanding of the situation in Fiji. Written submissions were also received.
4. Ministers said they were encouraged by the steps taken by Fiji on election planning, as well as by information provided about Fiji’s intentions. These gave Ministers a sense that Fiji was a country in transition, moving to put in place processes required for elections. In particular, the MCG welcomed assurances from Fiji that:
The process under way will lead to elections by September 2014;
The constitutional consultation process will be open to all;
There will be no media restrictions in relation to the constitutional consultation process;
The elections will be free and fair;
There will be no parliamentary seats reserved for the military.
5. The public consultation process leading to the establishment of a new constitution will be closely observed by the international community. The interim Acting Prime Minister and several officials have asserted it will be inclusive, fair and open. The MCG believes the process must be accompanied by freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom for media. This would allow Ministers to consider recommending to Leaders that incremental steps be taken to allow Fiji to participate in some Forum meetings.
6. Ministers reaffirmed Forum Leaders’ long standing offer to support Fiji’s early return to parliamentary democracy, including through the provision of appropriate assistance, consistent with the Forum’s underlying principles and values for respect for democracy, good governance and the rule of law.
7. The MCG will provide a report to Forum Leaders in the coming weeks on the positive progress Fiji has made and the further important steps they believe are required. Based on their continuing engagement, the MCG Ministers will provide a further update to Leaders at the time of their meeting in Rarotonga.
8. Ministers affirm the Forum’s intention to remain engaged and look forward to further progress in Fiji and continued constructive dialogue with Fiji.
9. Participants in the MCG visit were Hon. Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, Senator the Hon. Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, Hon. Ano Pala, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration of Papua New Guinea, Hon. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Minister of Justice of Samoa, Hon. Apisai Ielemia, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour of Tuvalu and Hon. Alfred Carlot, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vanuatu.