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The voice of Fiji

7 September 2011

The voice of Fiji

International polling in Fiji by independent Australian foreign policy think tank, the Lowy Institute for International Policy, has revealed a strong satisfaction with the performance of Commodore Frank Bainimarama as Prime Minister.

The results pose complex challenges both for the Fiji government and Pacific Island Forum leaders who are meeting this week in Auckland.

The poll ‘Fiji at Home and in the World’ authored by Lowy Institute Melanesia Director Jenny Hayward-Jones, surveyed over 1000 Fijians on their feelings towards other countries both internationally and in the Pacific region, their satisfaction with the domestic performance of Bainimarama, the role of the church in Fiji, media censorship, human rights and Pacific Islands Forum membership.

“For the first time we have a clear voice from the Fiji population. It is a voice that deserves to be heard” said report author Jenny Hayward Jones

“The Fiji government must listen to the voice of its people. Foreign governments should also be using the valuable information in this poll to reassess their policies towards Fiji”.

Despite Commodore Bainimarama ruling Fiji since the 2006 military coup, which resulted in suspension of Fiji from the Pacific Islands Forum and sanctions imposed by Pacific nations, the poll reveals a 66% approval rating for Bainimarama and a strong majority (65%) of people saying that Fiji is heading in the right direction. The Fiji people expressed almost universal support for democratic rights, with over 95% of respondents supporting the importance of the right to free expression, the right to vote in national elections, the right to a fair trial and a media free from censorship.

The poll reveals that the Fiji people are concerned with the way in which the international community have treated Fiji since the 2006 coup. 79% disagree with Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum and a similar majority disagree with Fiji’s suspension from the Commonwealth. 63% of Fijian people polled disagree with the Australian approach to Fiji, despite recognition that Australia was Fiji’s most valuable neighbour, and 81% said that the Australian government should lift its travel sanctions and re-establish normal relations with Fiji.

Fiji at Home and in the World’ is the first internationally focussed poll in Fiji and the first to survey public views of the Fiji government’s performance since the abrogation of the Fiji constitution in 2009. The Lowy Institute has conducted seven annual foreign policy polls in Australia and has also polled in New Zealand and China. Shortly it will conduct polling in Indonesia.

ENDS

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