Fiji's impending return to democracy welcomed
The New Zealand Law Society welcomes signs that Fiji is moving towards a return to democracy.
The New Zealand Law Society say it welcomes the encouraging signs that a return to democracy is coming in Fiji.
Fiji is due to hold elections in September, the first democratic elections in the country in eight years.
The Society has often been critical of the Bainimarama regime which seized power in 2006 but its convenor, Austin Forbes QC says the voter registration process and awareness in Fiji are positive developments.
He told Don Wiseman the Law Society sees it as appropriate that it speak out about the progress being made, given its earlier concerns over the situation in Fiji.
AUSTIN FORBES: Absolutely, we certainly have been critical on numerous occasions in the last few years and very concerned about the state of affairs, and the disintegrating state of affairs in Fiji in terms of normal tenants of democratic government and the rule of law. But now that progress appears to be made we thought it was entirely appropriate that we should say how pleased we are and fully support the moves that appear as though they are going to be made.
DON WISEMAN: Yeah there's still a lot of question marks though, there's the treatment of opposition political parties, there's the way the media is still constrained, there are some significant issues still aren't there.
AF: Absolutely so we're not saying everything's hunky-dory or anything like that at all, there's restrictive and indeed repressive decrees issued by the military government and we've been critical of that and we hope that they all get reviewed and as many if not all of them revoked and dealt with in the normal way by passing legislation or whatever the case may be. But there are signs of progress and the fact that an election is to held this year is definitely a good sign and we welcome that, so we're on the way there.
DW: Yes, it's going to be an election under a constitution that's been fairly widely criticised, is that a problem?
AF: Yes, we think the constitution could be better but again we welcome the progress that's been made, we welcome that at least a constitution's been introduced. And rather than stand-off and say 'that's not good enough, you shouldn't be having elections till you've got a proper constitution', let's make the progress even if it's incremental. And it's more than just window-dressing and it's clear that the New Zealand government takes the same view so let's see if we can build on that platform in Fiji and move forward.
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