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Australia, New Zealand cautiously hopeful

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, Jan. 4, 2012) – Fiji’s interim foreign minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola, says Fiji is disappointed at what he calls the continued rhetoric of Australia and New Zealand over Fiji’s efforts to modernize the country.

[PIR editor’s note: Australian government has approached the new changes to Fiji’s policy as "a step in the right direction" with caution, although it remains ready to support Fiji in developing and executing elections in order to restore democracy to the country.]

The regime has again announced that it will lift the public emergency regulations, known as PER, from Saturday.

The decision has been welcomed by Australia and New Zealand, which say Fiji is at last responding to calls for the regulations’ lifting but add there is still a long way to go.

Ratu Inoke says Fiji’s commitment to its Strategic Framework for Change is acknowledged by Pacific small island states, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Bali Democracy Forum.

[PIR editor’s note: Fiji Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyoum has said the lifting of the emergency decree is part of Fiji’s move towards democracy and the drafting the new constitution. Removing restrictions allows for public consultations and discussions, at which time people will need to have larger meetings, over the planned voting. Fiji academic Brij Lal has welcomed the release of censorship and restrictions on public meetings, but also says that other government decrees have already been put in place that may take over for the restrictions enacted by the Public Emergency Regulations.]

The PER were imposed in 2009 after the appeal court ruled that Commodore Frank Bainimarama’s post-coup interim administration was illegal.

The regime repeatedly promised to lift the PER once its media decree was in place but failed to do so since imposing it 18 months ago.

Fiji has been seeking a lifting of the travel bans New Zealand has been enforcing since 2000 on those involved in the past two coups.

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