Murray McCully speaks to media. – Source: ONE News
The Government has decided to partially lift sanctions against Fiji in order to support progress toward elections there next year.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has announced a programme of electoral assistance, development assistance and the easing of some sanctions in Fiji.
Mr McCully said the New Zealand Government welcomed recent moves toward elections, including the release of the final constitution, and wanted to support the elections process.
A senior official from the New Zealand Electoral Commission has recently participated in elections planning work in Fiji, and New Zealand will now help on-going work, the Minister said.
The Cabinet has also agreed some changes which recognise both the progress that has been made in Fiji and the need to support free and fair elections, he said.
In addition to supporting the elections office, the Cabinet has decided to reinstate 10 postgraduate scholarships for Fijian students. These were suspended in 2006.
It has also agreed to formally revoke the sporting sanctions instituted in 2006.
“While it has been our practice to provide exemptions from this ban in virtually every case, we judge that the time is now right to formally revoke the ban,” Mr McCully said
Individual bans will still apply to members of teams who are caught by the sanctions on members of the regime and the military, he said.
“Over recent months the Government has eased the operation of the travel sanctions, leaving them in place for key regime and military members but easing the process around family members of less senior figures.
“We intend to continue down this path as further progress is made toward free and fair elections.
“The decisions announced today have been signalled for some time as important steps toward normalising the relationship in recognition of election progress,” Mr McCully said.
Lifting sanctions ‘must lead to restoring rights’
Labour’s Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Phil Goff says the Government’s decision reflects the softening stance in relation to Fiji being proposed by the incoming government in Australia.
“All sanctions will of course be lifted if the Fiji Military Government this time honours its promise to hold free and fair elections scheduled for September next year,” Mr Goff said.
“We all hope that will happen and I have no problem with encouraging the interim Government to move in this direction.
“However, in the meantime we have continued to see serious breaches of human rights, an environment that does not allow free expression of opinion and free media commentary, and a loss of judicial independence,” he said.
Mr Goff added: “It cannot simply be forgotten that before the military regime took it away from them Fijian people once enjoyed the right to choose their own government and freely express their views.
“Full normalisation between Fiji and its neighbours can only happen once those rights are restored.”
Is Mr Goff right, I wonder? Are the Fijians genuine, or just playing their sick little games again. Critics have disappeared in Fiji. It is very dangerous to criticise, let alone oppose the Fijian dictatorship. If they do not allow genuine democratic change and free elections, then NZ should reimpose sanctions.