NZ government misguided on Fiji elections - UFDF
UFDF says New Zealand government's view that Fiji elections will be free and fair is misguided.
A Fiji opposition grouping says the New Zealand government's view that good progress is being made towards elections is misguided.
The New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, has said he is satisfied with the election machinery Fiji has in place, and will provide financial support for re-establishing the country's parliament.
Mary Baines reports.
The United Front for a Democratic Fiji leader, Mick Beddoes, says Mr McCully is getting his information from regime leaders - the very people who usurped democracy in 2006.
MICK BEDDOES: If the Foreign Affairs minister of New Zealand prefers to take what they say as what is on the ground then that's fine. But as far as what is actually going on, no. Things are not fine, things are not free, things are not fair. And everybody, it appears, except the New Zealand and Australia government seem to know it.
Mick Beddoes says it appears as if the international community just wants an election, even if it is flawed. But he says there is no point in having an election if it is not free and fair, as the same problems will continue to occur in Fiji.
MICK BEDDOES: If the fundamentals are not right, regardless of what the outcome of this election is, we will have coup number five, and six, followed by seven and eight. We need to fix our problem and fix it comprehensively if we are to avoid this thing happening again in the future.
Unions and political parties have complained of growing restrictions on the media, unions and civil society, and of the regime leader Rear Admiral Frank Bainimarama ignoring the law and campaigning before registering his party. But Mr McCully says he does not want to critique the way electoral rules are being enforced.
MURRAY McCULLY: What I will say is the fact that we're seeing a six-month process towards elections in which the machinery is working, in which the political parties are being formed.
Mr McCully has made his first visit to Suva since New Zealand lifted sanctions on the regime last month, in recognition of progress towards the September polls. He has also announced New Zealand will make a one-point-three-million US dollar contribution to a UN-led project providing support for IT and Hansard equipment, new MPs and parliamentary staff. Mr McCully says he believes the election will be competitive.
MURRAY McCULLY: I know that there are people who say that this election is a done deal. I don't agree with that. I think that it's going to be quite a competitive space for a while and I'm certainly not pre-judging the outcome.
The Secretary of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Peter Conway, says it is a gross exaggeration to say progress has been made. He says New Zealand should play hard ball with the regime and place conditions now.
PETER CONWAY: That means that you cannot threaten media with going to prison, you cannot tell unions you cannot express a political view at all, you cannot make it so difficult for civil society organisations to be involved. Otherwise it looks like it is rigged.
Peter Conway says Mr McCully is making it easier for the regime in Suva to keep masquerading that the election is free and fair.
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