Fiji to be discussed by Australia and UK foriegn ministers | Pacific Beat

Fiji to be discussed by Australia and UK foriegn ministers

Fiji to be discussed by Australia and UK foriegn ministers

Updated 18 January 2013, 15:03 AEDT

Meanwhile, the British and Australian foreign ministers are expected to discuss Fiji during their talks in Perth tomorrow.

The UK foreign secretary, William Hague, is visiting Australia to discuss bilateral issues as well as the situation in Syria.

Australia's foreign minister, Bob Carr, told a press conference that Australia is critical of the new decree governing political parties in Fiji.

Speaker: Australia's foreign minister, Bob Carr

CARR: I expect we'll be talking about Fiji. I'll be briefing him on the Australian perspective, our disappointment at the way the recommended Constitution was approached by the Interim Government, our understanding that there were features of that Constitution that were questionable, like reviving the Great Council of Chiefs, who are having a non-elected consultative body sitting alongside the Parliament and electing the President, but disappointed with the way that was handled.

And our concern, as I said, yesterday, that in a proposed decree to govern the formation of political parties, they'll be a ban on people who hold public office or who lead trade unions from participating in or founding political parties. We think vibrant political parties are one part of democracy, they're part of the package.

JOURNALIST: Will you start sort of taking a stronger stance against Fiji or.....?

CARR: Well, we've got a strong stance, just bear in mind, that we've got sanctions on members of the Interim Government of Fiji. We don't allow them to travel to Australia, although we're prepared to show flexibility, where an application comes from someone who hasn't got a military background, a Minister without a military background, that we prevent them from coming through Australia as a rule and we've got a ban on Australian institutions dealing financially with members of that government. Now these sanctions have been crafted, not to hurt the people of Fiji, and we provide the people of Fiji with aid. But we've got sanctions in place, I just remind people of that.

JOURNALIST 2: But will you, I guess, consider making a stronger statement on the issue?

CARR: Certainly, certainly. We just want to send a message though to the Interim Government of Fiji. Look, nothing would make us happier than to be able to peel back those sanctions, but as you manage the transition to the elections in 2014, and elected government, taking over from one that been installed by a coup. Please show attention for the democratic aspirations of the people of your country and the requirement of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedom to organise.

JOURNALIST 2: I'm told that you met the Fijian Foreign Minister last week, on Friday. I mean what are you telling him and what is he telling you? Does it give you any optimism that these meetings?

CARR: My optimism is based on the fact that the Interim Government whatever else it's done has not departed from its commitment to an election, a democratic election in 2014, and indeed, with our help has got a functioning electoral office, Electoral Commission, and has gone out to tender for the provision of ballot boxes. Now that stands, not withstanding the departure from the promises on the Constitution that we saw last week.

JOURNALIST 2: But there's been some harsh words coming out of Fiji over the years about Australia's role. Was he giving you any positive signs about that they would heed?

CARR: The underlying, the Foreign Minister of Fiji, the Interim Government in Fiji, underlined the government's commitment to an election in 2014, to that election time table, and that is our basic requirement here, that the people of Fiji get the vote on their own government in a way that is accepted by all observers, those who win, and those who lose the election, an authentic election in 2014.

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