NZ begins to ease up on Fiji sanctions to support upcoming elections

new_zealand_flag_mapWhile Fijians are still trying to get their heads around the heavily worded Constitution released last week, the International Community, not having much concern on how the document was devised, is starting to warm up to the Fiji Government.

A statement released today by the New Zealand Government states:

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has announced a program of electoral assistance, development assistance and the easing of some sanctions in Fiji in order to support progress toward elections next year.

Mr McCully says the New Zealand Government welcomed recent moves toward elections, including the release of the final constitution, and wanted to support the elections process.

“A senior official from the New Zealand Electoral Commission has recently participated in elections planning work in Fiji.  New Zealand will now offer to resource the on-going work that is taking place.

“The Cabinet has also agreed some changes which recognize both the progress that has been made in Fiji and the need for support for free and fair elections.

“In addition to supporting the elections office, we have decided to reinstate 10 post graduate scholarships for Fijian students.  These were suspended in 2006.

“We have also agreed to formally revoke the sporting sanctions instituted in 2006.  While it has been our practice to provide exemptions from this ban in virtually every case, we judge that the time is now right to formally revoke the ban.  Individual bans will still apply to members of teams who are caught by the sanctions on members of the regime and the military.

“Over recent months the government has eased the operation of the travel sanctions, leaving them in place for key regime and military members but easing the process around family members of less senior figures.  We intend to continue down this path as further progress is made toward free and fair elections.

“The decisions announced today have been signaled for some time as important steps toward normalizing the relationship in recognition of election progress,” Mr McCully says.

New Zealand Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully has announced a program of electoral assistance, development assistance and the easing of some sanctions in Fiji in order to support progress toward elections next year.

A statement says the New Zealand Government welcomed recent moves toward elections, including the release of the final constitution, and wanted to support the elections process.

McCully says a senior official from the New Zealand Electoral Commission has recently participated in elections planning work in Fiji. He says New Zealand will now offer to resource the on-going work that is taking place.

He adds the New Zealand Cabinet has also agreed some changes which recognize both the progress that has been made in Fiji and the need for support for free and fair elections. New Zealand will also reinstate 10 post graduate scholarships for Fijian students which have been suspended since 2006.

Sporting sanctions will also be revoked.

However, McCully says the individual bans will still apply to members of teams who are caught by the sanctions on members of the regime and the military. He says over recent months the government has eased the operation of the travel sanctions, leaving them in place for key regime and military members but easing the process around family members of less senior figures.

He says New Zealand intends to continue down this path as further progress is made toward free and fair elections.

This could be taken as a silent victory for the Bainimarama government given that support is growing towards the 2014 planned elections.

And with the change in government across the tasman, Australia’s political stance against the Bainimarama government is also expected to soften with the appointment of a new lineup of cabinet Ministers.

Fiji’s Electoral Officials were invited by the Australian Government to observe the elections last week which was also taken as a softening of the Australian sanction placed on the Bainimarama government since 2006.