Govt to give $2m for Fijian elections

PALOMA MIGONE IN TONGA
Last updated 17:44 23/07/2012

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The Government will provide $2 million to help Fiji prepare for its 2014 general elections.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, who met with his Fijian counterpart Ratu Inoke Kubuabola in Suva over the weekend, said the funds would be to help with voter registration, constitutional process and voter education.
 
The Government has yet to decide how it would be allocated, though McCully said $500,000 would go to the Constitutional Commission for work on consultation.
 
A further announcement was expected in the next couple of days.
 
''[The Constitutional Commission] has an important role to undertake and we want to support it,'' he said.

''We weren't going to see things move overnight, but we are seeing things move in the right direction.''
 
The Commission last week was critical that attorney general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum was undermining the process of drafting a new constitution.
 
McCully said he'll be watching the situation closely, but he was happy with the process so far.
 
''We've been given an assurance by the attorney general ... that there would be freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of the media to report on the work of the commission,'' he said.

Fiji earlier this year turned down a New Zealand and Australian offer to pay for the whole voter registration process, as Sayed-Khaiyum feared it would come at a price.

''I was very clear that there were no strings attached. Subsequently, they've asked for some help from the New Zealand Elections Enrolment Centre, and we've had an expert up several times in recent months. They've asked for additional resourcing as well.''
 
McCully said recent developments did not mean a suspension on Fiji would be lifted, or relations would return to normal.
 
McCully arrived in Tonga this afternoon as part of the annual Pacific Mission.

He would be stopping in Niue and New Caledonia during the five-day trip.

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