5 Sep 2013

Leaders at Pacific Islands Forum support 2014 elections in Fiji

9:08 am on 5 September 2013

An increasing number of leaders meeting in the Marshall Islands this week at the Pacific Islands Forum are showing their support for Fiji's announced plan to hold national elections next year.

The planned elections for 2014 will be the first since a coup in 2006 toppled a democratically elected government.

The issue of Fiji's reinstatement as a member of the Forum is on the agenda as leaders head into their final day for a retreat on a secluded island in Majuro Atoll, the capital of the Marshall Islands.

Papua New Guinea's prime minister Peter O'Neill yesterday hinted strongly that the election next September would see the return of Fiji to the Forum.

He added that Papua New Guinea has been the biggest support for Fiji to staying engaged with the Pacific and they will continue to do that.

Mr O'Neill says his government has committed nearly 10 million US dollars to help Fiji's election process, and has pledged another 10 million US to Fiji for 2015.

In addition to Mr O'Neill, New Zealand's prime minister, John Key showed his support for the controversial constitution issued by Fiji Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama last week.

Despite criticism of the document from pro-democracy groups in Fiji, Mr Key said it was important to look to the future, not the past, to move Fiji toward a free election next year.

The Marshall Islands President, Christopher Loeak, in his formal statement at the Forum's opening on Tuesday called on leaders to strive for regional unity, which he described as especially important on complex political issues, including leaders response to the recent positive developments in Fiji.

Forum leaders will issue a communique at the end of their meeting today, which is the official wrap up of the leaders meeting representing 15 island nations.