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Fiji moves forward

Avinesh Gopal
Sunday, March 16, 2014

FIJI'S full suspension from the Commonwealth has been changed to suspension from the councils of the Commonwealth.

Thus, it permits Fiji to once again participate in a range of Commonwealth activities.

At its 43rd meeting in London on Friday, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) recognised the progress being made in Fiji, politically, and decided to change the suspension status.

It welcomed the significant progress made towards holding national election by September.

"These include the promulgation of a new Constitution, the enrolment of more than 540,000 voters, the establishment of an independent Electoral Commission and the commencement of dialogue between the commission and political stakeholders," CMAG said in a statement.

The group welcomed the decision by the Elections Office to open voter registration offices around the country to ensure more voters register.

It urged that the Electoral Commission be provided with the independent authority and resources to oversee the conduct of credible and inclusive elections.

Also, the group noted the logistical challenges still facing the Elections Office.

It commended the financial and technical support provided to the office by some Commonwealth countries, and welcomed the offer by the Commonwealth Secretariat to provide technical advice and support to the electoral preparations.

The statement said CMAG looked forward to the early appointment of a Supervisor of Elections and the issuance of an Elections Decree and the legal framework for elections.

It also stressed the importance of the fullest possible voter education.

Furthermore, the group stressed the importance of continuing improvements to human rights, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms, including of the media, expression, association and assembly. It encouraged Fiji to invite international observers for the elections.

The group also noted the relinquishment by Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama of his role as the military commander and the subsequent announcement of his intention to register his political party to contest the elections.

An Information Ministry statement said the Fijian Government welcomed the statement by CMAG and "we look forward to a formal invitation to rejoin the Commonwealth in due course".

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