INDEPENDENCE OF FIJI MONITORING GROUP QUESTIONED

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Military Leader Bainimarama is co-chairman

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, April 22, 2008) – The independence of the National Council of Building a Better Fiji has been questioned by a three-member independent group [the Independent Monitoring Group] appointed to review the Council’s process so far.

The Council is developing a roadmap forward for Fiji; the reviewers released its first report Tuesday.

The group, amongst other things, expressed its concern that the Council is not as representative as it had intended.

It questioned the Council’s independence based on the membership of interim prime minister as a co-chair and the "large number" of Cabinet ministers.

The report indicates the need for transparency in the operations of the Council noting that the media and certain stakeholders had been barred from the Council meeting after its third session, without any explanation.

The report noted that the Council’s lack of equal representation of Fiji’s communities fails to meet a central objective of the Council.

Major religious groups, majority of the civil society and the four largest provinces continue to refuse participation because of the lack of any legal authority to support the Council’s work.

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