Smith Says Way is Clear for Fiji Elections; Media Shocked at Creation of Media Tribunal; People’s Charter Draft Ready End of July, Samy Says

By Ryan L. Maness
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania

SYDNEY, Australia — Fiji’s Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has been consistent in the past months in his view that social and political reforms were needed before any democratic elections can take place.  This view was directly challenged this week as the Pacific Island Forum concluded talks with Fiji’s leaders and Stephen Smith, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister, said that there is no justification for any delay in Fiji’s people going to the polls next March.

According to Smith, Bainimarama has gone back on the promise election promise that he made to the Pacific Island Forum last year.  With ample time and a stable environment, there is no reason to postpone elections, Smith said.  “There is nothing that we have seen or heard which would stand in the way of that occurring, provided that there is the political will. The political will in the first instance, primarily if not exclusively from the interim government, but also the political dialogue which ensues between the political players in Fiji which we both encourage and welcome.”

For more information, please see:
Fiji Broadcasting Corporation Limited — Smith criticized delay in Fiji elections — 20 July 2008

Fiji Times — No justification for poll postponement: Smith — 20 July 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Forum ministers see no impediment to March elections in Fiji — 16 July 2008

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SUVA, Fiji –– The interim government of Fiji’s stance towards the media has sparked the ire of the country’s Media Council and particularly its chairman, Daryl Tarte.  Tarte is concerned about the perceived differences between what the Council was told by interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and what the interim government has actually done.  Addressing the Council, the interim AG said that existing media lalws would be consolidated into one piece of overarching legislation, but a day later the interim government announced that it would create a tribunal to hear appeals on grievances lodged with the Media Council.

The interim government defends its action, saying that there is nothing new in the consolidation of laws.  He also reiterated the government’s previously stated stance that, “We do not want to control the media or the content of the media by licensing it.”

Tarte, however, sees things differently.  He is upset by the fact that there are discrepencies between interim government’s words and their actions.  “At the media council meeting on Wednesday, the interim attorney general was invited to talk to council members about the Government’s-media relationship, and he cateorically stated the government did not intend introducing any form of legislation. The very next day it is announced that government are going to impose legislation.”  Fiji Times also reports that he has expressed his fear that, along with the hearing appeals, the tribunal would set codes of conduct and exact fines.

For more information, please see:
Radio New Zealand News — Fears Fiji tribunal will undermine media — 19 July 2008

Fiji Daily Post News — Media council wants their views heard — 19 July 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Fiji media council stunned by interim regime’s regulation — 18 July 2008

Fiji Times — State move on media shocks council head — 18 July 2008

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SUVA, Fiji — The a draft of the interim government’s much touted People’s Charter should be finished by the end of the month, says the National Council for Building a Better Fiji.  The chairman of the Council, John Samy, said that the time line for getting the the Charter out was accelerated so as not to interfere with  possible elections next year.

Along with the Charter Samy announced that a State of the Nation report would also be released as well as an economic report. During the announcement, which was delivered to an applauding crowd of the NCBBF, he said, “Not all provincial councils are against the idea of the Charter, in fact below the provincial council, at village and grassroot level, the response we are getting is broad based support.”

For more information, please see:
Fijilive — Draft People’s Charter to be out soon — 15 July 2008

Radio New Zealand International — Draft Fiji People’s Charter expected to be complete by end of this month — 14 July 2008

Author: Impunity Watch Archive

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