27 Jun 2008

Fiji parliament recall mooted to change electoral system, says Forum group chair

1:35 pm on 27 June 2008

The chair of the Pacific Islands Forum's Joint Working Group with Fiji says the interim Government has signalled it might recall Parliament to change the electoral system.

The Group had been aiming to help Fiji back to democracy and had met on 30 times since late last year but last week Fiji withdrew in protest at New Zealand's and Australia's policy.

The Group's Chair, PNG High Commissioner to Fiji, Peter Eafeare, says they have achieved a lot and want to stay engaged.

He says Fiji's interim Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, had told the Working Group last week the People's Charter had to be complete, and electoral reforms put in place ahead of a poll.

And Mr Eafeare says the interim regime also indicated how it might have the changes put in place.

"One of which was to recall Parliament. The other was to, by decree, make amendments through promulgation, and the third one was to convert the National Council for Building a Better Fiji into a Constituency Assembly that would then adopt resolutions which would go directly to the President."

The New Zealand Government says it's up to the Fiji interim regime to ensure a positive environment for planned ministerial level talks next month.

The New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters says the planned visit by the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group would strengthen engagement after Fiji quit the Joint Working Group.

The Fiji interim leader, Commodore Bainimarama, has complained about Australia's and New Zealand's refusal to recognise his regime, the ongoing travel bans and the failure of the Joint Working Group to appreciate the efforts his administration was making.

Mr Peters says the travel bans will stay and it's up to the interim Government to pave the way for successful talks.

The Ministerial Group is happy to travel to Fiji, has been asked to do whatever they can to facilitate progress in this matter, but it is over to the interim Government on that score, and let's not avoid the real issue here. The issue is that the fate of travel bans and of a better relationship, and the restoration of relations as usual, lies fairly and squarely in the hands of the interim regime.

Winston Peters