30 Jan 2007

Winston Peters says New Zealand won't shirk role promoting democracy in Pacific

8:43 pm on 30 January 2007

The New Zealand foreign minister Winston Peters says New Zealand mustn't shirk its role as a champion of democracy in the Pacific.

In a speech to a New Zealand rotary club he says where the balances of constitutional democracy fail as they have recently in Fiji, the consequences are all too obvious.

Mr Peters says the military regime in Fiji has systematically suppressed freedom of speech, created a climate of fear and abuse, and undermined confidence in those state institutions whose role is to protect the rights of its citizens.

He called for the military regime to produce a detailed roadmap towards the restoration of democracy.

The minister says New Zealand has previously put significant resources into promoting democracy in Fiji, including ensuring the smooth running of the elections last year.

He says on election night no one claimed the poll was not fair and New Zealand cannot sit idly by as Fiji's military leader, who did not stand for election and does not have a democratic mandate, seizes office and claims some perverse legitimacy.

And Mr Peters says New Zealand will not be swayed by Commodore Bainimarama's threats of retaliation simply for voicing outrage at his actions, and for taking the measures he was warned in advance would be taken.