Former foreign minister questions NZ's easing of Fiji sanctions
Former foreign minister of New Zealand, Winston Peters, says there is not enough evidence of free and fair elections in Fiji to justify New Zealand's sanctions being eased.
A former foreign minister of New Zealand, Winston Peters, says there is not enough evidence of free and fair elections in Fiji to justify New Zealand's sanctions being eased.
The New Zealand government announced last year that sanctions, including travel bans would be eased, and last month allowed into New Zealand a former high ranking military official, Brigadier General Iowane Naivalurua, for talks with government departments on public sector reform.
Brigadier General Naivalurua is now Fiji's Ambassador-at-large.
Mr Peters says dialogue is to be encouraged but the New Zealand government's stance is premature.
WINSTON PETERS: In every way leading up to the election, during it and after, freedom, fairness and accountability has to be demonstrated otherwise what's this election going to be about? I mean is it going to be a jack-up? We've got to know that it will not be and that all participants will be given a fair go to put their policies in front of the Fijian constituency.
SALLY ROUND: So has this New Zealand government got it right, a pragmatic, gradual easing of sanctions? They even allowed a top regime official to visit a couple of weeks ago.
WP: Look I've seen this approach before back in 1996/97 and you know you've got to ask yourself, and it came from the British in that case - let's allow them back in the Commonwealth, they've been okay - and I thought to myself at that time, just what are you using for a measurement to make that kind of decision when you haven't got substantial evidence that your decision is right. You know the government probably hopes, possibly hopes it's right. I don't think they've got any evidence to back that up at all at this point in time. And we'll see come September whether or not there are free, open and fair elections. What is the state of the electoral roll? What percentage of people have been enrolled? What is the state of preparedness of all the officials for a fair and open election? Those are fundamental things on which I am getting disturbing information from other groups in Fiji as to that preparedness or lack of it. And there is no prize in this business for naivety. We've been around as a country, long enough in a democratic sense to know what conditions or preconditions we should insist upon. And I'd hate to think that they are being compromised.
SR: And do you know what the visit to New Zealand of the former police commissioner, now a so called ambassador-at-large, was about a couple of weeks ago, were you involved in that visit at all? Do you know what it was about?
WP: No, not at all in any way. I do say this, continual communication and dialogue is to be encouraged. I've got nothing to complain about on that score. But it's when, how shall I say, some people, maybe experienced but naive nevertheless, think that they understand the environment with which they're dealing when clearly they don't. This is a country that has had four coups and until we get the military to understand - you stay in the barracks, that's what your role is - then we won't make any progress in Fiji.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: