1 May 2012

Forum team encouraged by Fiji talks

6:33 pm on 1 May 2012

The Pacific Islands Forum ministerial team visiting Fiji says it has been encouraged by the steps taken by Fiji on election planning, as well as by information provided about Fiji's intentions.

The Ministerial Contact Group commented after a one-day visit to Suva - its first since the military regime abrogated the constitution in 2009.

The group says it has been assured by the regime that process under way will lead to elections by September 2014 which will be free and fair.

It has been told that there will be no parliamentary seats reserved for the military which seized power in 2006.

The group has been assured that the constitutional consultation process will be open to all and there will be no media restrictions in relation to that process.

Fiji's acting regime chief Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum has criticised the ministers for only meeting a select group of people during their visit.

They held separate talks with regime officials, two former Fiji Prime Ministers and an opposition leader as well as representatives from civil society and unions.

But Mr Sayed-Khaiyum says that represents only a handful of Fiji's political parties, unions and other organisations.

"They need to meet a cross-section of people but they are not doing so. That's obviously their choice but one of course has to question what sort of decision or output will come from meeting only a handful of the same people."

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum says Fiji welcomes other countries' help as the country heads towards promised elections in 2014.

The Fiji regime had earlier rejected a three-million US dollar offer from New Zealand and Australia for electronic voter registration to be paid to the Canadian company Code Inc which has been selected to carry out the job.

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum has told New Zealand and Australian Foreign Ministers visiting Fiji that the country would accept help with voter awareness campaigns before registration and before the elections.