3 Sep 2013

NZ's McCully says Fiji constitution part of positive progress

4:38 pm on 3 September 2013

New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, says the release of Fiji's constitution is part of much practical progress in Fiji towards elections.

He says he hopes Suva looks at some of its aspects more carefully, but New Zealand wants to look positively at what's going on in Fiji.

MURRAY MCCULLY: Let's be fair. There is a steady stream now of activities that are all consistent with elections being held in 2014 as the Fijian administration has said they would be. I think we did see in the latter part of 2012 some steps in a backwards direction that we expressed concerns about at the time, but since then we've seen quite a lot of progress, seen four political parties registered to contest the elections, we've seen very practical progress being made. Our own deputy chief of the electoral office has been over, I think twice, for an extended period of time as part of a needs assessment process. And I'm looking now at some ways we can back that up by providing practical help with the elections planning. I'm advised that there's quite a lot of work to be done, so there'll be things that we can definitely do I think over the coming weeks you'll see a new government elected in Australia, you'll see the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meet in Majuro, there'll an opportunity to think about the steps that appropriately should be taken if that progress in Fiji continues.

JANE PATTERSON: The constitution still has firmly in place very broad pardons for a number of people involved over the last eight or so years. Would New Zealand have like to have seen that removed from the constitution, or what's our position on that?

MM: This is Fiji's constitution, so I'm not going to get involved in providing a running commentary on it. I'd simply say there are still some aspects of the constitution we hoped they'll discuss further and look at more carefully. But we want to look positively at what's going on there. Progress is being made towards the machinery for elections and the ground rules for elections in the form of the constitution, and we want to support that process in every way we can.

JP: The constitution however, is going to form the basis, in part, of the new governance arrangements, the basis on which elections will be held. And that's the reason that they're not in the Forum. So New Zealand does have a bit of skin in the game when it comes to the constitution arrangements.

MM: We certainly do, and we have to ask how we're going to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I think the solution here is the holding of elections and we need to focus firmly on helping them get across that line. I think there'll be some issues in the constitution debate that we hope will attract further attention there, but over all we want to try and see the machinery for elections put in place. We want the elections to be free and fair. And to the extent that there are fine-tuning issues to be dealt with going forward, there'll be some time to do that.