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NZ Presence In UN Fiji Elections Observer Team

Strong NZ Presence In UN Fiji Elections Observer Team

Four New Zealanders will join the United Nations’ Observer Mission in Fiji to monitor the general election taking place 25 August through till 1 September, Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff announced today.

Michael Powles, former Cabinet Minister Stan Rodger, Brian Absolum and Susan Elliott have been selected by the UN.

“I am delighted at the choice of such well-qualified New Zealanders for such important UN positions.

“The presence of international observers will help provide a stable environment for the election, and both domestic and international acceptance of the result, if observers can confirm the election has been held freely and fairly.

“The New Zealand Government expects the election will be conducted properly but given events of the past year or so, observer presence will act as an extra measure to ensure the smooth return to democratic and constitutional government in Fiji,” Mr Goff said.

The 40-strong observer team will be made up of 20 UN staff and 20 observers nominated by UN member Governments. Fiji’s caretaker Government has also invited 12 election observers from the Commonwealth and three European Union observers. The UN will coordinate the observer missions.

Michael Powles, NZ’s former Permanent Representative to the UN in New York and now a Human Rights Commissioner, has been appointed as Senior Political Adviser - one of top UN staff positions on the team. Mr Powles was High Commissioner to Fiji 1980-82 and was later a Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade responsible for relations with the Pacific.

The other observers are -

- Stan Rodger, a Cabinet Minister from 1984 - 1990, who held at different times Ministerial portfolios for Labour, State Services, Immigration, State Owned Enterprises, Railways, and Deputy Minister of Finance.

- Brian Absolum, a former High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Samoa, Fiji, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Administrator of Tokelau, and currently with the Ombudsmen Office.

- Susan Elliott, a development professional with more than 20 years experience working with NGOs and governments overseas including Fiji and other parts of the Pacific.

"The New Zealand government is confident the general election will return Fiji to a system of democratic and constitutional governance. This will be a welcome development which we trust will open the door to normalising the New Zealand / Fiji relationship, which has been strained by events since the 19 May coup last year,” Mr Goff said.

The New Zealand Government has provided NZ$700,000 in bilateral assistance to support the Fiji Electoral Office in managing the election. Former New Zealand Chief Electoral Officer Phil Whelan has been stationed in Fiji for the past month to provide assistance to the Supervisor of Elections and his staff.

The counting of the ballot papers is expected to be complete on 6 September. The UN observer mission is likely to stay until mid September overseeing the post-election logistics and conducting public training seminars.


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