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Fiji Sanctions Remain

16 September 2001

Fiji Sanctions Remain Pending Decision On Consitutionality

Issues related to the constitutionality of the new Fijian government need to be sorted out in Fiji before a final decision is made to lift sanctions, says Foreign Minister, Phil Goff.

"A decision to lift sanctions and to readmit Fiji to the Commonwealth has always relied on the return of Fiji to democracy and to constitutional government.

"It is clear that, notwithstanding concerns about the electoral process, Fiji has elected a parliament that broadly reflects the will of the people. This has been acknowledged by both Commonwealth and United Nations election observer teams. We warmly welcome that the election has restored parliamentary democracy.

"Mr Qarase leads the largest political grouping and has sufficient numbers in parliament to achieve a majority. He is therefore entitled under the Constitution to become Prime Minister and lead a Government.

"However, section 99(5) of the 1997 Constitution states that the Prime Minister must invite all parties whose membership in the House comprises at least 10% to be represented in Cabinet proportionate to their numbers in the House.

"In an unusually strong statement, Fiji's Chief Justice Tuivaga, has said that the Qarase Government may be unconstitutional because the Fiji Labour Party with 38% of parliamentary seats has not been allowed to join the government.

"He said he was bound to draw attention to the clear and unequivocal provisions in the Constitution which provide for the formation of a multi-party cabinet.

"Clearly Fijians themselves must resolve this matter before the international community can say with confidence that the criterion of constitutionality has been met.

"I have had discussions with Don McKinnon, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, General Mompati Merafhi, Chair of the Commonwealth Ministers Action Group and Australia's Foreign Minister Alexander Downer.

"We are all keen to see relations with Fiji normalised as soon as possible.
However, until such time as the outstanding constitutional issue can be

dealt with in Fiji politically or though the courts, it is likely that any decision on readmission to the Councils of the Commonwealth will await resolution of that issue. Likewise a final decision on sanctions will depend on this matter being resolved.

"We hope that the matter can be dealt with quickly and the Commonwealth will offer its assistance if appropriate", Mr Goff said.


Ends

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