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Fiji faces suspension from Pacific Islands Forum

At midnight Friday May 1, Fiji passes a deadline set by the Pacific Islands Forum to schedule elections to be held this year or be kicked from the regional group.

Members of the 16-nation body gave that ultimatum in late January to then-Interim Government leader Frank Bainimarama. The group stated that if Fiji does not meed the deadline, the country would be suspended from all Forum events and cease receiving any new financial and technical assistance. But Bainimarama insisted Fiji would not hold elections until his government could remake the country's race-based electoral code that allows the majority ethnic Fijians to vote on different rolls than ethnic Indians and other minority groups.

Much has changed in Fiji since the deadline. Following an April 9 court decision that Bainimarama’s military-backed regime came to power illegally in December 2006, the country’s President annulled the country’s constitution, fired the judiciary, reappointed the Bainimarama regime and gave it a five-year mandate before promising to hold elections in 2014. A few members of the Forum condemned those moves.

Fiji’s government hopes that diplomatic maneuverings could still win the day. Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum remained optimistic the PIF would not kick out Fiji because member countries are being educated on recent developments in the country. Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who is traveling to a meeting of the Asian Development Bank, called for an “urgent meeting” with leaders of Australia and New Zealand to stave off the expulsion.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Michael Somare remain unimpressed.

The Pacific Island Forum has its headquarters based in Suva, Fiji.

Café Pacific investigates the geo-political fallout of a possible Fiji expulsion, especially in light of growing Indian and Chinese influence on the island.

Bainimarama's strongest supporter in the forum, PNG prime minister Sir Michael Somare, has apparently deserted the regime and is siding with the Australian and New Zealand isolationist push. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd gloated over the claimed United Nations decision not to award any more peacekeeping duties to the Fiji military. The hypocrisy of Australia and New Zealand is deafening. And this can only end badly, even disastrously for the region. The regime is likely to respond with anger. Will it be time to toss out the Australian high commissioner? The forum has never taken such drastic action against a member in almost four decades of virtual “Pacific way” consensus. If it does so this time – excluding the most influential and crossroads island nation of the region – the isolationist policy will come back to the bite the forum in most unpredictable ways.

It will also open the door to a dramatic rise in Chinese influence in the region, at the expense of Canberra and Wellington. It was interesting to see the turnout for the swearing in of Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as Vice-President – ironically the chief was ousted as military commander when Sitiveni Rabuka staged his double coup in May 1987 (against both Dr Timoci Bavadra's Labour government and against his own two higher ranked army officers). Present for Nailatikau were the high commissioners of India, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea and the ambassadors of China and Kiribati…

Within Fiji, Intelligentsiya argues the Bainimarama regime is to blame and tells people of Fiji to “stand tall” in light of upcoming hardships.

The clock’s ticking Bainimarama but the writing is on the wall.

It’s 3 strikes and a once founding island country is rowing its own canoe out of the PIF family.

What a depressing, emotional day for our noble country.
It should be day of mourning.

Once our suspension comes to pass formally, we can expect that to trigger a whole lot of additional testicle squeezing from the international community.
Pleas and blood tie links to Tonga will not help.
The region is not turning their backs on us. Leaders are protesting their opposition to Bainimarama and his illegal regime. And in the process are allowing hard lessons to be learned.
Despite the unabashed trash being heaped on us by the illegal central bank guv, we know better.
Stand tall, united and remain proud Fiji.
Only under intense heat, can gold be found.

From New Zealand, the Whale Oil blog calls Prime Minister John Key’s declaration that Fiji will most likely be expelled from the body a “bad move.”

All this move will do is push Fiji closer and closer to China. Someone other than the fools at Mfat needs to be advising you on Fiji.
I can help there and put you in touch with several folk who have the ear of Frank Bainimarama.
Don't be captured by the bureaucrats, actually make a difference.

With Samoa’s history of problematic representative government, Jone at Fiji Board Exiles says New Zealand and Australia are being hypocritical by siding against Fiji.

Seems strange that NZ and Oz should insist that Fiji returns to democracy, freedom of the press and human rights etc, when its ‘favoured’ nation Samoa is so flawed! Add PNG widespread corruption, and Tongan non-democracy, to the Oz/NZ list of ‘favoured’ nations, and the hypocrisy is even greater!

  • Mele

    I find the attitude from Oz, NZ and other Pacific nations towards Fiji hypocritical.

    Take for example Fiji’s closest neighbour and Bainairama’s closest friend since his days in Marist College,the Prime Minister of Tonga Feleti Sevele.

    PM Sevele has over the past 7 years promised NZ and Australian Aid donors that he will ensure democractic reforms will be introduced into Tonga by 2010.

    Sevele has happily taken the aid money, splashed it around and refused to budge on progressing towards democratic reforms.

    Forget about Fiji, have a close look at Tonga!

    At least Fiji HAS democracy albeit its on hold at the moment. Comare that to Tonga where the country is ruled by a feudal system consisting of a linage of kings and Nobles whom pass their rights onto their sons.

    The parliament is governmend by the kings own privy council, the ministers are appointed and removed by the king himself.

    Where any of the MP’s or the prviy council members dare to defy the kings orders, they are removed.

    No where does Tonga allow for democracy.

    The system is corrupt, with the Royal family manipulating the govenrment and aid donors for their own benefits. Spin offs for MP’s are provided based on the ability of each to bleed revenue from the reserve into schemes and businesses that are owned and operated by the royal family.

    A few years back, the locals, known as “The Friendly Islands” for their laid back easy going lifestyle” got sick of and tired for the promised democractic reforms that some have been advocating for over the past 20 years, and held demonstrations that ended up in riots which burnt down the kings businesses and his PM’s supermarket. The fianle was the fires also burnt neighbourning buildings resulting in the bulk of the capital being razed.

    To follow in Fiji’s foot steps, Selve, long time friend of Bainarama, instututed (like Fiji) Martial Law, but perfers to call it (like Fiji) “Emergency Powers”. Under those powers (like Fiji) parts of the Tongan constitution are scratched and replaced with the rights for military personnel to arrest detain and indefintly imprison “suspected” persons.

    The military or should I say the kings government has used this new constitutional power to arrest and detail members of Tongas only democratic party, whom it blames for the riots, teh filing economy and every cyclone and earthquake that has occured since the inception of time.

    Further to this, Tonga (like Fiji) has banned reporting of all political commentary inside its parliament and has closed down and ransacked the only non-government operated TV station. The government didn’t stop there. Like Fiji (or should i say that Fiji has copied Tonga) the government also sacked journalists and its own TV presenting staff that had purportedly shown pro-democractic ideals, thereafter placing censorship on all TV news reporting. ITs interesting to note that Fiji caught on and followed suite some time after.

    Yet, i give credit to Sevele (PM of Tonga) as he has played his hand differerntly compared to his close and long time school buddy Bainiarama. He has consistently promised Oz and NZ that democratic reforms are under way, poised for 2011. But all along he keeps blaming democratic gangs for thwating progressm, when in fact its himself that is draging the chain.

    You see, Sevele was a hasbeen democratic rep himself, but failed to get support of the people. The king saw an opportunity and made him the PM and yelled “A PM from the People- not from the Royal Family) as was previously the case.

    Sevele and the king scratched each others back. Sevele knew his time was up as a democratic rep, and the king new his time was up in terms of promising democratic reforms. So to kill 2 birds with one stone, both saw an ends to each others needs and became united.

    As a result, Sevele will remain Tongas PM until democracy comes to Tonga, and is certainly in no hurry to being it in. As soon as he does, he’s out of a job. So Sevele is happy to drag the chain.

    The Tongan king on the other hand is happy to have dispensed with Nepotism after sacking his own bother from the job as PM prior, and has used Sevele for bleeding the country dry of its hard earned dollars and aid by handing over millions of dollars in exchange for public owned assets that the king claimed belonged to himself.

    As a result the king has gained at least $50 million of tax payers money in just one single transaction that has come to light.

    In exchange, the king handed over control to the people of the power system (of which was previously built using tax payers dollars!)

    This is just one of many scams that Sevele and the king have embroiled themselves in while the country goes without a transparent and democratic system.

    Fool on Rudd for not seeing the truth in the Pacific!

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