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FIJI: Australian Government Continues Assistance

FIJI MINISTRY OF INFORMATION

Today¹s news releases from the Ministry of Information

Date: Tuesday, 17th October, 2000

Headlines:

1. AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT CONTINUES ASSISTANCE

2. TAVOLA MEETS COMMONWEALTH SECRETARY-GENERAL

News In Detail:

17th October, 2000 No:1175

AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT CONTINUES ASSISTANCE TO EDUCATION IN FIJI

In its efforts to improve the quality of education in Fiji and to increase access to communities in the rural areas, the Australian Government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Fiji Government to provide assistance to 61 rural schools.

A cheque to the value of F$1 million was presented by Australia¹s Counsellor Development Cooperation, Peter Waddell-Wood, to Education Permanent Secretary, Emi Rabukawaqa, to assist the Fiji Government in its efforts to upgrade facilities in rural schools.

The assistance to Rural Schools Project is part of Australia¹s coordinated program of on-going assistance to the education sector in Fiji.

Australia¹s aid program aims to assist Fiji to meet the educational needs of its people in the priority areas of basic education, higher education and vocational and skills training.

According to the Australian High Commission¹s Development Cooperation Section, the Australian Government has deliberately maintained the humanitarian activities in its aid program despite announcing a range of measures in July 2000 to register its deep concern about the situation in Fiji.

More than 70% of the program continues to be implemented in the important areas of education, health and community development in Fiji.

Australia has continued its funding to the

… Basic Education, Management and Teacher Upgrading Project (BEMPTUP) which is primarily aimed at improving the quality of secondary teacher training through in-service training for Classes 7 and 8 teachers;

… Postgraduate Medical Training at Fiji Medical School which has established the postgraduate training programs and teaching materials in five key disciplines of surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, anesthetics, pediatrics and general medicine;

… the work of the Education Commission; and

… scholarship program, where there are currently 131 fully fledged Fiji students studying in Australia and a further eight studying in Fiji.

In addition, Australia also continues to provide assistance at a regional level to the University of the South Pacific , the South Pacific Board of Education Assessment and the Basic Education and Literacy Support Program, from which Fiji benefits.

-End-

17th October, 2000 No: 1176

TAVOLA MEETS COMMONWEALTH SECRETARY-GENERAL

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, External Trade and Sugar, Kaliopate Tavola, this morning met with the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon.

In welcoming the Minister to Malborough House, Mr McKinnon stressed that his office was keen to keep a dialogue going with the Interim Government and through the process, together try to find a way forward for Fiji.

His office on behalf of the Commonwealth was very interested to see how things develop in the next few months.

MrTavola explained to the Secretary-General the details of the road map which the Interim Government is embarked upon to take Fiji back to Parliamentary democracy.

These include the 18 months time frame from this month of October before a new Parliament under a new Constitution, the Constitution Commission which has already begun meeting from last week, and the work the Ministry of National Reconciliation and Unity towards harmony and peace between different communities in Fiji.

On expression of concern by Mr McKinnon of a Constitution that will marginalise the Indian community, the Minister emphasized that the Interim Government¹s position is as stated by the Prime Minister to the Constitution Commission i.e. ³a Constitution that would best suit our country with its multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society².

He said there is no intention of doing away with important provisions on human rights and the safeguard of the individual¹s freedom and liberty as guaranteed under the 1997 Constitution.

The Secretary-General assured the Minister that his office would genuinely like to work together with the Interim Government towards the restoration of democracy in the country, Fiji¹s suspension lifted and its return to the Commonwealth.

Mr Tavola was earlier interviewed by the BBC radio 4 and this afternoon will again be interviewed with the BBC ³Asia Today² programme.

Tomorrow the Minister calls on Mr John Battle, the Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for North East Asia and the Pacific.

-End-


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