Fiji will be suspended from the Pacific region\’s trade and diplomatic group from Saturday for refusing to restore democracy, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says.
Commodore Frank Bainimarama ousted the ethnic Fijian-dominated government in 2006 and has vowed to rewrite the constitution and electoral laws to remove what he says is discrimination against the country\’s large ethnic Indian minority before holding elections.
Earlier this year the Pacific Islands Forum, made up of 16 nations, threatened to suspend Fiji if Bainimarama did not announce a date for elections.
Meeting with his Japanese counterpart in Perth on Friday, Mr Smith said given Fiji had shown no intention on a return democracy, the threat would be instated.
“The effect of the resolution passed unanimously … is effective tomorrow, the first day after May 1,” Mr Smith said.
“Fiji has shown no intention to return to democracy and on the contrary has torn up its constitution.
“The effect of that resolution will be Fiji is automatically suspended from the forums and the meeting of the Pacific Islands Forum itself.”
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,” Cdre Bainimarama said in an interview with Sky News.
He insisted there would be no election for five years, but offered to talk it through 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.”
Houston \’threatened Fiji\’
Cdre Bainimarama also claimed in the interview that Australia has threatened to invade Fiji.
Australia\’s defence force chief Angus Houston made the threat in 2006, shortly after the coup that 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,” he said.
“It was a threat, he made a threat.”
Media gags to remain
Cdre Bainimarama also 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.