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Lifting Of Fiji Sanctions Deferred

Lifting Of Fiji Sanctions Deferred Pending Resolution Of Constitutional Issue

Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Phil Goff said today that New Zealand would defer lifting sanctions against Fiji until the issue of the constitutionality of the current Cabinet was resolved. This matter is due to go before the Fiji Court of Appeal in February 2002.

"The Commonwealth has also deferred consideration of Fiji's suspension from the Councils of the Commonwealth until the Court of Appeal's decision.

"The Commonwealth clearly believes that an important constitutional issue remains unresolved with the legal challenge to the exclusion of the Fiji Labour Party from the Cabinet which appears to be contrary to s.99(5) of the Fiji constitution. New Zealand wishes to act collectively with the Commonwealth.

"New Zealand accepts and welcomes the restoration of democracy in Fiji. It also accepts that Prime Minister Qarase who has the confidence of the majority of Parliament is properly Prime Minister of Fiji. However the constitutionality of his Cabinet remains in question. This was confirmed by Fiji's own Chief Justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga.

"I have spoken with Fiji Foreign Minister Kaliopate Tavola to explain New Zealand's position.

"I told Mr Tavola that New Zealand was keen to see Fiji return to full participation in the activities of the Commonwealth so targeted sanctions could be lifted and relations normalised.

"As soon as the Court has determined the question of constitutionality and its requirements are acted upon by the parties the way will be clear for New Zealand and the Commonwealth to resume normal and friendly relations with Fiji," Mr Goff said.

Ends


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