10 Oct 2013

Fiji democrats urge foreign governments to put pressure on regime

5:08 pm on 10 October 2013

A member of Fiji's Sodelpa Party, Dr Tupeni Baba, says foreign assistance for the elections should come with conditions attached.

The Fiji government has accepted offers of help from several overseas countries and organisations including New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and it has engaged a multinational committee to make sure foreign help is co-ordinated.

Dr Baba says independent analysis shows the constitution which forms the basis for the elections is fundamentally flawed and countries like New Zealand and Australia are ignoring that.

He told Sally Round they should take the lead in bringing about changes before the regime's end of year deadline.

TUPENI BABA: The critical role for New Zealand, Australia and particularly the Commonwealth is to play a tacit role in the window that is available for change. That is up to the end of December 2013. They actually need to know what is happening on the ground. I'm very, very surprised that New Zealand has been one of the first to embrace this. New Zealand knows very well. We meet with the New Zealand people here who represent the government and they understand our concerns. They need to play a role to ensure that the processes, the appointment of the critical offices like the supervisor of elections, that has been advertised. And also the electoral commission which oversees the work of the supervisors of elections, that also is about to be appointed. But it has been appointed by the very man, Mr Bainimarama himself. Because under the transitional arrangements in the constitution he controls that. He does it himself. He's not only the so-called prime minister, head of the regime. But he's also the leadership, he's also the speaker during this intervening period.

SALLY ROUND: So what role do you advocate that they could play here?

TB: They could begin to exert pressure and not only worry about their own interests, because finally the interests of New Zealand will be safeguarded by the people of Fiji. The interests of New Zealand are not going to be safeguarded by a decision about who is going to be voted out. There's no doubt about the fact these guys don't have the support of the people in Fiji. So they should play a role in their financial assistance. They should insist very clearly in the ways they're giving assistance. They must be subject to certain controls, certain conditions, certain independence of the running of the elections. The involvement of the people who might be invited to observe. And we don't just think of our group that will come in for a week and move out again. [We want] a long-term observer group that will be well before the elections and well after the elections, so they understand the situation happening on the ground, because the security of the [Indistinct] is vital here and the independence of the carrying out of the elections.