Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
GOFF VOICES CONCERNS OVER FIJI & ZIMBABWE TO COMMONWEALTH WATCHDOG
Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff has expressed New Zealand's concern about events in Fiji and Zimbabwe to the
Commonwealth's watchdog on democracy, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG).
Mr Goff has written to Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Secretariat Don McKinnon on the eve of CMAG's latest
meeting in London.
"I have told Mr McKinnon that New Zealand is disappointed that the opportunity to immediately return Fiji to a
constitutional and democratic government has been lost and with it the chance of a government of national unity which
may have been able to help reconcile differences within the community.
"New Zealand is concerned that the former interim administration declared illegal by the Court of Appeal has effectively
been legitimised and appointed as a caretaker government. The most constitutional approach would have been the
reconvening of Parliament and letting it decide who should govern until elections are held.
"The path chosen by President Iloilo appears to only give lip service to the Court of Appeal ruling and at best is on
the outer edges of constitutionality.
"I have told Mr McKinnon that New Zealand is not yet ready to lift sanctions against Fiji. Suspension of the sanctions
will need to await clear evidence of early elections and an unequivocal commitment by the caretaker government to a
democratic outcome at the ballot box.
"I hope that CMAG is able to send a clear message expressing concerns about the doubtful constitutionality of the
caretaker government. The Commonwealth should emphasise that Fiji's return to full membership of the Commonwealth will
depend on its successful return to a constitutional democracy," Mr Goff said.
The Minister has also expressed to Mr McKinnon his concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe.
Mr Goff supported CMAG's concerns already expressed over ongoing violence, loss of life, illegal occupations of
property, failure to uphold the rule of law and political intimidation in the run-up to Zimbabwe's parliamentary
"There have been further reasons for profound disquiet in recent months. Reported human rights abuses include serious
threats to Opposition MPs, apparent tolerance of violence, murder, intimidation, and a growing climate of fear.
"I am concerned by reports of interference with the independence of the judiciary and the reticence of law enforcement
authorities to investigate or act upon intimidation directed at citizens who are not supportive of the regime.
"The independence of the press has also been compromised by the failure to protect newspapers which dare to be critical
of the government while there has been the expulsion of British and South African journalists.
"CMAG should call for an immediate end to these abuses. New Zealand supports the early dispatch by the Commonwealth
Secretariat of a fact-finding team to Zimbabwe. CMAG should then meet to review its finding and formulate the next steps
for Commonwealth action. This might include assistance to Zimbabwe to move away from the disastrous political and
economic course which it is following or sanctions such as suspension from the Commonwealth if it does not," Mr Goff