US weighs-in on Fiji's return to democracy | Pacific Beat

US weighs-in on Fiji's return to democracy

US weighs-in on Fiji's return to democracy

Updated 15 February 2012, 14:01 AEDT

The United States Embassy in Suva, Fiji, has issued a press statement on behalf of its government reiterating its desire for Fiji to return to democracy as soon as possible.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Jeffrey Robertson, Regional Public Affairs Officer for the US Embassy, Suva, and official Embassy spokesperson

ROBERTSON: It's really our view on the new strategic framework for change, or what we'll call a roadmap, that was recently proposed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama. And while we recognise the desire for political reform in Fiji and we support anything that hastens Fiji's return to a Constitution and free elections, this road map falls short of that goal. It was imposed without the participation or consent of the Fijian people and it is delaying the process leading to elections. We're also very concerned that the public emergency regulations, the PER, that curb freedom of speech, press and political assembly remain in place. And that's basically what's it says.

COUTTS: Mr. Robertson, your President Barack Obama, has had a bit to say about democracy and humanitarian issues recently. Was he specifically including Fiji in those comments?

ROBERTSON: Well, I think he was speaking for all nations, and certainly Fiji applies. I mean just last night when he spoke to the new economic seminar in Moscow, he said freedom in speech has allowed women and minorities and workers to protest for fallen equal rights at a time when they were denied. The rule of law and equal administration of justice has busted monopolies; shutdown political machines that were corrupt; ended abuses of power. Independent media have exposed corruption at all levels of business and government. Competitive elections allowed us to change course and hold our leaders accountable. I think that speaks directly to Fiji.

COUTTS: And so what is it exactly that the US wants Fiji to do now?

ROBERTSON: Well, it's for Fiji and the people Fiji to decide. We would like to see a transparent process that includes representatives from all of the peoples in Fiji to really create a system of government that works for them, rather than to have one imposed on them. In particular, we would like to see rights immediately brought back to everyone, including freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and independent media freedom of press and basically to have the PER, the Public Emergency Regulations draft, and of course we want elections to happen and there is no reason they can't happen sooner, much sooner than 2014.

COUTTS: And has the US through your embassy in Suva made direct representation to the interim government, Commodore Frank Bainimarama specifically, for instance on censorship of the press and what the US feels should be happening now?

ROBERTSON: Yes, we've actually made it on several levels, but really at the highest level, Ambassador Steven McGann has met and continues to meet with Commodore Bainimarama to discuss these issues. We keep an open line of communication between the interim government and our government and we have repetitively asked for hastening the election process and for the PER to be dropped.


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