COMMONWEALTH MINISTERS WELCOME FIJI ELECTION PROGRESS

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Suspension remains ‘until democracy is restored’

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, April 16, 2012) – Commonwealth foreign ministers have welcomed recent moves by Fiji to prepare for elections by September 2014, but says the country will not be reinstated until democracy is restored.

Fiji was fully suspended from the Commonwealth in 2009, three years after Commodore Frank Bainimarama overthrew the government in a military coup.

After its overnight meeting in London the "Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group" said while it was pleased Fiji's military backed regime had begun consultations on a new constitution, and has lifted the Public Emergency Regulations (PER), its concerned many of the restrictions enforced under the PER's remain in place, under the redrafted public order decree.

The ministerial Action Group says it's ready to provide Fiji assistance with its constitutional consultations, and preparations for the promised elections in 2014.

But Australia's Foreign Minister, Bob Carr, the new vice-chair of CMAG, also raised concerns about the treatment of President of Fiji Trade Union Congress Daniel Urai, National Secretary of Fiji Trade Union Congress Felix Anthony, and the Secretary of the Fiji Pilots Association Shalend Scott.

"I remain concerned about continuing restrictions on Fijians and oppressive decrees including those on the press and on labor freedoms," Mr. Carr said.

"At CMAG I specifically raised concerns about a number of trade unionists who have in recent months been detained by the military and the police.

"These individuals were in some cases held in detention and later released without charge. In one instance, it is alleged that one unionist was beaten while in detention.

CMAG also expressed its concerns in the wake of Fiji's recent floods, and urged all necessary support to be provided for the relief and recovery of affected communities.

[PIR editor’s note: Commonwealth ministers have also called on Fiji to "restore full respect for human rights, including freedoms of expression and assembly, and access to justice," which are considered fundamental values "indispensable in order to create the environment necessary for credible constitutional consultations and elections."]

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