Fiji\’s military ruler insists there will be no election in the key Pacific island nation for five years, but he\’s offered to talk it through with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Commodore Frank Bainimarama, under fire for his decision to abandon elections due this year, also claims Australia has threatened to invade Fiji.
Australia\’s defence force chief Angus Houston made the threat in 2006, shortly after the coup which brought him to power, Fiji\’s self-appointed interim prime minister said.
“He woke me up early in the morning to tell me don\’t ever do anything that will pit my troops against yours,” Cdre Bainimarama told Sky News.
“It was a threat, he made a threat.”
Cdre Bainimarama said he was affected at the time by a heavy night of drinking kava, but he thought Houston must have been drunk to make such a comment.
There would be no election in Fiji until September 2014, he said, defying calls from Australian and other Pacific Island Forum nations for Fiji to return to democracy.
Three-way summit proposal
But, Cdre Bainimarama said, he would be willing to meet with the leaders of Australia and New Zealand immediately, provided they accepted his point of view.
“I\’d love to see them face to face.”
Cdre Bainimarama indicated curbs on the Fijian media would continue for some time, adding the extended emergency measures would include censorship.
“We want this calm to continue for a while.
“If I don\’t muzzle the press, is it going to bring extra food on the table?”
Fijian newspapers have been allowed to run few political stories or open criticism of the government since military censors were put to work.
“That\’s the way things should happen in Fiji – rugby back on the front page,” Cdre Bainimarama said with a laugh.
The Pacific Islands Forum, composed of Australia, New Zealand and mostly smaller Pacific island states, says it will suspend Fiji unless democracy is restored.
Cdre Bainimarama said there was no need for such action because no one was being killed in the streets in Fiji, and no nation had ever been suspended from the forum before.
“If it was up to me, we would remove Australia and New Zealand from the forum. They\’re putting undue pressure on the Pacific islands.”