Study Tour Fiji Post Election - Regional Programme Australia and the Pacific
From 6 to 11 February 2023, a delegation of representatives from KAS Australia, the AIIA, the Australian National University (ANU) and the Victoria University Wellington (VUW) travelled to Fiji with the objective both to gain a better understanding of the challenges that the Pacific Island State is facing after the elections, and to provide local and regional stakeholders with a forum to discuss these challenges.
The main events included a luncheon discussion with representatives from the University of the South Pacific and a local non-government organisation on strong institutions. The representatives from the university made it clear that the elections marked a historic moment for the Pacific Island State, and that the democratic transition was going to be a rocky road after 16 years under the rule of former Prime Minister Bainimarama’s Fiji First Party. A rule of law seminar in cooperation with the Institute of Small States included a keynote speech by former Attorney General of Samoa Brenda Heather-Latu on “Lessons learnt from Samoa’s 2021 general elections”, complemented by a presentation by the renowned Suva based lawyer Richard Naidu on “The Rule of law: Lessons from Fiji’s last 16 years” as well as presentations on media law, electoral law and judicial diversity. The experts inter alia agreed that Fiji needs a freedom of information law, a code of conduct for public officials, an overhaul of the media legislation, and more judicial diversity. As far as the proposed review of the constitution is concerned, one of the experts suggested that the government may need to look into the lawful adoption of the constitution itself. The main events also included a roundtable in cooperation with Tourism Fiji and the Pacific Travel Organisation (SPTO) on current challenges to Fiji and the Pacific region’s tourism sector. According to the CEO of Tourism Fiji, Brent Hill, Fiji’s tourism sector was bouncing back – good news for a country that depends on revenues from this sector.
In addition, the delegation had the opportunity to meet representatives from the National Federation Party of Fiji (NFP), the PIF Secretariat, the Fiji Australian Business Council, the Australian High Commission, the New Zealand High Commission, and other stakeholders.