Australia, India to co-lead observers team to monitor Fiji polls

Four Asia Pacific nations, including India and Australia, will co-lead a 14-member monitoring group that will oversee Fiji`s first General Election since a 2006 coup to ensure that they are conducted in a free and fair manner.

PTI| Last Updated: Aug 14, 2014, 16:08 PM IST

Melbourne: Four Asia Pacific nations, including India and Australia, will co-lead a 14-member monitoring group that will oversee Fiji`s first General Election since a 2006 coup to ensure that they are conducted in a free and fair manner.

Australia is co-leading the Multinational Observation Group with India, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said here.

Australia has also appointed former Defence and Workplace Relations Minister Peter Reith to lead the Australian team, Bishop was quoted as saying by the ABC news.

She said Reith has a "strong interest in supporting democracy internationally."

Reith said it`s a very important moment for Fiji.
"It`s a good opportunity for Fiji, and Australia is keen to be of assistance," he said, adding "From a broad perspective, the objective here is to make a decision at the end of the election, to report on whether or not the outcome of the General Election broadly represents the view of the Fijian people."

"That`s the broad objective, and we`re looking forward to being involved," he said.

Bishop said Multinational Observation Group is expected to have freedom of movement throughout the island nation and will deal with the Fijian Government, political parties and other Fijian organisations.

The Australian team is expected to be deployed to Suva in coming days to establish a Secretariat and to begin the mission`s work.

The officials will observe and evaluate voter education campaigns, election day operations and events and the reconciliation of all ballot papers.
"The observer group will not be talking about politics or anything else, but obviously they`ll be keeping a keen eye on what`s happening," Reith said.

"It`s a specific job, and it`s important that the group maintain that particular focus that we`ve been asked to do - because it`s an important job and we want to do it professionally," he said.

Multinational Observer Group would also include Israel, South Africa, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Japan, New Zealand, Korea, Iran and the UK.

Reith said the elections are a big step for Fiji, and one which Australia welcomes. It will be the first election in Fiji since a coup in 2006.

"It`s a positive step and we`ll be taking a positive and professional approach to it all," Reith said.

Fiji goes to the polls on September 17 for the first time since the 2006 coup which saw the then Commodore Bainimarama take power.

There had been four coups since 1987 in the island nation arising from the tensions between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians descended from sugar plantation labourers shipped in by the British during the colonial era.