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Australia welcomes commencement of Fiji elections.

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Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Media Release Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer

24 August 2001 \ FA129

Australia Welcomes Commencement of Fiji Elections

The Government welcomes the holding of elections in Fiji from 25 August to 1 September under the 1997 Constitution.  These elections are a significant step forward for Fiji in returning to democratic and constitutional government.  The Australian Government has consistently encouraged the early holding of elections in Fiji.

I am pleased to announce that Australia is contributing three observers to the multilateral observer missions to the Fiji elections.

Two Australians are participating in the United Nations Fijian Electoral Observer Mission: Mr John Spender QC and Mr Greg Urwin.  Mr Spender has had a distinguished public career as a parliamentarian and senior diplomat, and Mr Urwin is a senior officer from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and a former High Commissioner to Fiji.

One Australian is participating in the Commonwealth Observer Group: the Hon Ben Humphreys, a former Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, who had extensive contact with countries of the South Pacific in his distinguished career as a parliamentarian.

Since the events of May 2000, the Government has sought the return of constitutional and democratic rule to Fiji, both through the imposition of sanctions and through offering assistance to Fiji to facilitate elections.  As previously announced, the Government has provided a grant of FJD 1million (around $845,000) to the Fiji Electoral Commission.  Further assistance being provided by Australia includes technical advice, mainly through the Australian Electoral Commission, and assistance to various civil society organisations for education and information awareness activities in the lead up to the elections.

The provision of observers to the multilateral observer missions demonstrates that Australia shares the international community’s desire that Fiji return to democracy and constitutionality, and underlines the importance that Australia places on these elections being free and fair.

Media Inquiries: Matt Francis (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500, Lyndall Sachs (Departmental) 02 6261 1555

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