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Goff Welcomes Fiji Election Announcement


Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Media Statement

20 March 2001

GOFF WELCOMES FIJI ELECTION ANNOUNCEMENT


Foreign Minister Phil Goff welcomed the announcement by the caretaker government in Fiji that elections will take place by 7 September 2001.

"I have been advised by faxed letter from the caretaker Prime Minister Mr Qarase today that the elections will be held from 28 August to 7 September. He has also assured me that Fiji will by this date be returned to a full constitutional democracy under the 1997 Constitution.

"I welcome this assurance and the announcement of a specific date for the election. The holding of a fair and free election under the constitution will meet New Zealand's long-standing demand that democratic government be restored in Fiji.

"The restoration of a freely elected government will open the way for normalisation of relations between New Zealand and Fiji. It will allow for the removal of the sanctions currently imposed against Fiji with the exception of smart sanctions against individuals clearly identified with the coup of May 19 last year.

"New Zealand is disappointed that the parliament elected in May 1999 has not been reconvened as per the Court of Appeal ruling.

"We believe that the opportunity this would have opened up for the formation of a government dedicated to reconciliation between the different communities has sadly been lost.

"Reappointment of the former interim administration created a cynicism about whether Fiji would respect the Court's ruling.

"That being said, the nomination of a firm date for fresh elections at least creates the expectation of a full restoration of democracy within six months.

"It remains important to ensure that law and order is maintained and an election campaign free from intimidation can be conducted. It is also important that genuine efforts are made to heal the wounds opened up by the coup and that reconciliation and tolerance replace the extremism which has blighted Fiji since May last year," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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