AUSTRALIA SCOFFS AT FIJI’S DEMOCRACY INITIATIVE

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Anti-union decrees fly in face of democracy claims

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Oct. 4, 2011) – The Australian government says it is still waiting to see a genuine move towards democracy in Fiji.

Fiji’s interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama reiterated his plan at a recent meeting of the United Nations General Assembly for the run up to elections in 2014, saying electronic voter registration would start in January.

He also said from September next year, Fiji must turn its attention to developing a new constitution.

But Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs, Richard Marles, says it’s hard to see that plans for registering voters are a meaningful step, when in the same breath the regime announces a new decree targeting union activity.

"To hang your hat on this investigation of electronic voter registration as being some meaningful step towards democracy is just not right. We need to see a genuine and meaningful step in the right direction, but if that were to occur, we’re there with bells on and we’re there to work with Fiji to try and move to democracy as soon as they can."

[PIR editor's note: While the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact group on Fiji hopes Fiji will maintain its election date of 2014, Marle recommended earlier in February that elections should and can be held prior to 2014. In August, the secretary-general of the Pacific Islands Forum, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, said that Fiji should "restore democracy" and "a constitutionally-elected government is essential to building investor confidence and growing the economy," aside from holding basic human rights of Fijian citizens paramount.]

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