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Aussie Gets An Acting High Commissioner For Fiji

The Hon Stephen Smith MP
Australian Minister For Foreign Affairs

Government Agrees to Acting High Commissioner for Fiji

The Australian Government has today notified the Fiji Interim Government of its agreement to the appointment of an Acting High Commissioner in Canberra and a Consul-General in Sydney.

The appointment is designed to improve diplomatic communication between Australia and Fiji and follows on from the recall, by the Interim Government of Fiji, of its previous High Commissioner from Australia in July 2007.

The Government welcomes the recent appointment of a Supervisor of Elections by the Fiji Interim Government. This was an undertaking given to the Pacific Island Forum Foreign Ministers meeting in Auckland in March this year. The Government has previously indicated to Fiji that progress on this front would be a consideration in the appointment of an Acting High Commissioner.

In coming to this decision very serious consideration has been placed on to the views of Prime Minister Somare of Papua New Guinea and Prime Minister Sevele of Tonga, senior statesmen in the Pacific and friends of both Australia and Fiji.

Despite these positive developments, the Government remains very concerned about the situation in Fiji and recent statements by Commodore Bainimarama.

This includes indications from Commodore Bainimarama that an election will not take place until the regime's People's Charter is in place and that an election could be delayed by his plans to change Fiji's electoral system.

The Government is also disappointed that Bainimarama has decided to suspend the Interim Government's engagement in the Forum-Fiji Joint Working Group.

A further death threat delivered to our High Commission in Suva is another disturbing development. We have again urged the Fiji Interim Government to agree to our request for the deployment of unarmed Australia Federal Police personnel to provide close personal protection and for additional security protection from the Fiji police.

Australia, with its Forum partners, remains committed to assisting Fiji to return to democracy and the rule of law by means of a democratic election by March 2009.

Australia recognises that, in addition to an election, a political dialogue, without any preconditions, is vital to address Fiji's long-term issues and encourage lasting national reconciliation and stability.

Australia welcomed the fact that Commodore Bainimarama held meetings with ousted Prime Minister Qarase on 19 May and 17 June. Australia urges all Fiji's leaders to engage in a constructive dialogue on their country's future.

However, an election cannot be conditional upon progress on a political dialogue or other processes. Holding an election by March 2009 was Commodore Bainimarama's faithful and unconditional commitment to Pacific leaders in October 2007.

Australia continues to urge him to honour that commitment.

ENDS

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