New Zealand To Ease Sanctions Placed On Fiji

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Restrictions on scholarships, sports activities lifted

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Sept. 12, 2013) – The New Zealand Government has announced the easing of some sanctions placed on Fiji as part of its support for free and fair elections next year.

Restrictions on sporting and education scholarship have been revoked.

In making the announcement, Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully said the decision stems from the New Zealand Government’s recognition of progress, made in Fiji, one of which was the release of the 2013 Fiji Constitution last month.

"We have decided to reinstate 10 post graduate scholarships for Fijian students. These were suspended in 2006," he said.

"We have also agreed to formally revoke the sporting sanctions instituted in 2006. While it has been our practice to provide exemptions from this ban in virtually every case, we judge that the time is now right to formally revoke the ban."

[PIR editor’s note: Meanwhile, spokesman Mick Beddoes of the United Front for a Democratic Fiji, says the decision to ease up on the regime is premature and based on false assumptions that the elections are on track for 2014. Elsewhere, New Zealand opposition foreign affairs spokesman Phil Goff says the country has eased up on Fiji because Australia forced its hand. Coalition for Human Rights in Fiji Chair Shamima Ali says New Zealand did not consult human rights groups before making its decision, which she says was disappointing because nothing has changed in Fiji.]

Travel restrictions, however, remain in place for members of teams who are members of the government and the military.

The New Zealand Gov’t has over recent months eased sanctions for family members of less senior figures and it has not ruled out removing more sanctions as Fiji makes further progress "toward free and fair elections."

McCully also announced a programme of electoral and development assistance towards the 2014 elections.

"A senior official from the New Zealand Electoral Commission has recently participated in elections planning work in Fiji. New Zealand will now offer to resource the on-going work that is taking place."

McCully described the decisions as important steps toward normalising the relationship between the two countries in recognition of election progress.

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