16 Jul 2008

Political will needed for elections in Fiji - Peters

3:37 pm on 16 July 2008

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters, says logistically, elections could be held in Fiji within a very short time frame, but there needs to be political will.

Foreign ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu are in Fiji to press the interim government to honour promises to hold elections by March, 2009.

Mr Peters says the issue of sanctions imposed by New Zealand and Australia was raised at a meeting on Tuesday with Commodore Frank Bainimarama who overthrew the government in December 2006.

He told Morning Report on Wednesday that the interim administration in Fiji is pushing to have trade sanctions lifted, but that won't happen until the New Zealand Government sees a credible pathway towards an election.

But he would not comment on whether the interim Prime Minister has restated his commitment to the March timetable.

Last month, Fiji suspended talks with the Fiji Joint Working Group, citing New Zealand and Australia's "neo-colonial" attitudes as one reason.

Mr Peters had expressed concern about Fiji's withdrawal from the group, saying it was a sign that Fiji was moving away from its commitment to the election timetable.

Commodore Bainimarama says he wants to end corruption before polls can take place.

Fiji's interim attorney-general, Aiyaz Sayed Khayum said on Morning Report on Tuesday that New Zealand and Australia have been unwilling to engage in constructive discussions on democracy and described their position as "hypocritical".

The European Union said during the weekend that it had deep concerns that Fiji was pushing back the timeline for elections.

4th coup

The military took power in Fiji in December 2006. It was the fourth coup there since 1987.

Commodore Bainimarama told his soldiers last month that elections promised for early next year were unlikely to take place because corruption problems remained.