Rudd wants real change in Fiji before easing sanctions | Pacific Beat

Rudd wants real change in Fiji before easing sanctions

Rudd wants real change in Fiji before easing sanctions

Updated 29 February 2012, 5:10 AEDT

Australia wants to see real change in Fiji before it looks at the possibility of lifting targeted sanctions on members of the Bainimarama regime.

That's the message from foreign minister Kevin Rudd, who says while the lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations is welcome, he wants to see what concrete changes take place on the ground.

He says Australia will be watching political developments in Fiji carefully over the weeks and months to come.

Mr Rudd says Hill Australia's sanctions are aimed at the regime, not the people of Fiji, and he hopes the lifting of the PER will see actual changes.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:Kevin Rudd, Australia's Foreign Minister

RUDD: We'll wait and see in terms of what actually happens on the ground. Of course the Australian government through our parliamentary secretary, Richard Marles, has welcomed the steps by Fijian regime, but we will wait to see what happens practically on the ground under a range of other areas of political restriction within Fiji and we will simply wait and see what practical changes. But we welcome the initial move by the regime, but there is still much, much more to be done.

HILL: Well, what concrete steps will Australia like to see the Fijian interim government take before you'd look at changing the targeted sanctions against members of the regime and their families?

RUDD: Well, there's a whole raft of measures which are being implemented by the Fijian regime, including the emergency measures, but beyond those measures as well. What we've seen is a whole pattern of behaviour on the part of the regime towards whether its church leaders, trade union leaders, political opponents, the freedom of the media etc. Now we need to see these actions reflected in a concrete way on the ground as the weeks and months unfold ahead of us, not simply a statement by the regime that they have decided to lift these emergency regulations. Lifting them is one thing. What happens on the ground will be watched by us very carefully and you ask therefore what would cause us to begin to alter our policy towards the Fijian regime. It is what now materially happens on the ground, and remember, of course, the Constitution has been suspended and remember, of course, that the judiciary has been fact, and remember of course, that this regime exists because it didn't like the outcome of the last parliamentary elections.

HILL: Well, Fiji's interim government has what they call look north policy in which they're turning away from traditional partners, like Australia and New Zealand and going towards China for investment and aid. Is this a concern for Australia?

RUDD: Well, the Fijian people have very strong and deep links with the people of Australia, the people of New Zealand and the people of the South Pacific. Of course the Fijian regime can conduct foreign policy of its own choosing. The challenge for Fiji is not what it's external relationships are. The challenge for Fiji and the regime is to ensure that it rejoins the family of democracies in the Pacific Island Forum. We hold democracy to be a fundamental value of this South Pacific family that we have. Fiji elected to walk outside that family through the coup, which Bainimarama was party to and the family of the South Pacific want Fiji to return to that family. What the Fijian regime does in the interim with other external political partners is a matter for it, but remember, this is where Fiji has its being, this regime in the South Pacific. I think the Melanesians, the Polynesians and the Micronesians who make up the broader Pacific Island family, together with Australia and New Zealand would welcome the people of Fiji coming back into the family of South Pacific democracy.

HILL: Is there any sense in which perhaps Australia's targeted sanctions on the regime might be seen to be in a way driving Fiji away from Australia and towards China?

RUDD: Let's be very clear about what has occurred in relation to Australia's policy towards Fiji. We have been very clear, together with the Pacific Island Forum, all 15 members, together with the all 54 members of the Commonwealth of Nations have reached a common position that this action by the Fijian regime is not only unlawful and unconstitutional, but causes them to be suspended from both these international institutions. It is not an individual Australian view or a New Zealand view. It's the view of something like a quarter of the members of the United Nations as expressed through those decisions taken recently at the Pacific Island Forum at the Commonwealth meeting in Perth.

The other point I'd make about Fiji is that Australia has no trade sanctions imposed against Fiji, contrary to what is sometimes said by the regime, because we have taken the view that that would be damaging to the people of Fiji themselves. Furthermore, I've authorised separately an increase in Australia's development assistance cooperation with Fiji to make sure that the most basic needs of Fijian people in health and education and elsewhere are being attended to and we've done that notwithstanding our position, the position of all these other countries on the undemocratic actions by the regime. So our challenge is and difficulty has never been with the Fijian people. We maintain an open, economic contact through our trade relationship. There is no trade ban or boycott or sanctions and beyond that our development assistance relationship has gone from strength-to-strength.

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