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May 01, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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The visiting Pacific Islands Forum ministerial contact group says they are encouraged by the commitments given by the Fiji government on the consultation process for the 2014 election, but hopes these will be met by action.

Forum ministerial contact group chairperson and New Zealand’s Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully told the media the process must be accompanied by freedom of association, freedom of speech and freedom for the media.

McCully said they have been assured by the Fiji government that the consultation process for the 2014 election is to start soon.

He said the public consultation process leading to the establishment of a new constitution will be closely observed by the international community.

McCully said interim Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and several officials have asserted it will be inclusive, fair and open.

“We have made a point in our communiqué that we want to observe closely, as the international community would want to observe, and if we can be satisfied that those assertions are met with action,” he said.

This, McCully said, would allow Fiji to participate in some Forum meetings.

The group will provide a report to Forum leaders in the coming weeks on the positive progress Fiji has made and the further steps they believe are required. Based on their continuing engagement, the ministers will provide a further update to leaders at their meeting in Rarotonga.

"Very worthwhile visit because we haven't had one to Suva in three years and it has been useful to talk to people on the ground. We have had an exhaustive series of discussions with the people involved in the administration and critics of the administration in the space of 1 day."

This visit is a snapshot of where things are today and to take account the old statements made about where things will be in a few months," he said.

The members of the Forum group are Senator Bob Carr, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, Murray McCully, Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, Ano Pala, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade & Immigration of Papua New Guinea, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Minister of Justice of Samoa, Apisai Ielemia, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Trade, Tourism, Environment and Labour of Tuvalu, and Alfred Carlot, Minister for Foreign Affairs & External Trade of Vanuatu.

The Forum group last visited Fiji in 2008. Since then, they have met five times to discuss developments in Fiji and avenues for Forum engagement. The last meeting was held in Vanuatu in February 2011.

By Farzana Nisha

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