Friday, 9 May 2008 4:41 AM

Forum-Fiji JWG Outcomes of 28th Meeting

The Working Group held is twenty-eighth meeting at the Forum Secretariat Headquarters in Suva on 8 May 2008, attended by senior officials from Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tuvalu.

The Working Group noted that a list of candidates for the Supervisor of Elections had been presented to the interim Attorney General and again urged the interim government to make an appointment as soon as possible to assist the Elections Office to proceed with its preparations for the elections by March 2009.

The Working Group expressed disappointment with the continuing delay by Fiji to provide a detailed timetable for election preparations to be considered by the interim Cabinet. The Working Group strongly encouraged the Ministry of Justice to progress the timetable, noting the significant lapses in achieving the electoral milestones in the integrated timeline.

Some members of the Working Group were deeply concerned with the arbitrary detention and deportation of media executive Evan Hannah by the interim government of Fiji, following the deportation of Russell Hunter some weeks earlier. The implications of these expulsions on basic freedoms in Fiji including the freedom of speech and opinion, and the rule of law were highlighted. The Working Group was provided with a copy of the press statement from the Minister of Defence, National Security and Information which underlined the interim government's position. However, it did note that the interim government would need to clarify the threats to national security and sovereignty it is alleged the two men posed, as justification of their expulsions. The Working Group was advised by the Fiji representatives that matter was before the Fiji courts.

The Working Group discussed the standing issues (the restoration of civilian rule, upholding the 1997 Constitution, the cessation of human rights abuses and addressing allegations of abuse, and support for a credible and independent anti-corruption commission).

The Working Group will hold its next meeting on 22 May 2008.

Letters to the Editor All Letters
By STEVE BANI Vura Heights, East Honiara
By GEOFFREY MAURIASI USP, Lacuala Campus, Fiji
By CHARLES KOULI Gizo, Western Province