29 Mar 2011

New Zealand hints at softening Fiji travel bans

2:37 pm on 29 March 2011

The New Zealand foreign minister Murray McCully says a relaxation of travel bans against Fiji could happen soon if the interim government gives a firm commitment to elections in 2014.

Mr McCully is quoted by the New Zealand Herald as saying he's hopeful the Rugby World Cup would act as a carrot for Commodore Bainimarama to give a cast-iron assurance in return for lifting the travel ban in time for the Cup.

Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in May 2009 after Commodore Frank Bainimarama reneged on an earlier commitment to return the country to democracy.

He said at that time elections couldn't be held until 2014 to allow time for electoral reforms.

Mr McCully says Fiji is yet to deliver any hard evidence of progress to elections in 2014, but he says it's now closer than it was before.

If the travel ban was relaxed it would allow the regime to seek qualified foreigners to help it prepare for elections.

Meanwhile, the permanent secretary in Commodore Bainimarama's office, Colonel Pio Tikoduadua, has told Auckland's Radio Tarana that the interim Government has committed to elections in 2014 and is making progress in its preparations.

"They are looking for these more commitments, we are moving there. We have our own roadmap to follow, we are talking to people and we are making a lot of good ground with people we don't normally talk to. We are committed to that. We are looking at a whole inclusive process when we are looking at Fiji's future. All we need is a little bit of support you know. If everyone can play and come and watch rugby I am sure things are going to be quite alright in the Pacific."