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Fiji faces suspension from Pacific Islands Forum

Categories: Fiji, New Zealand, Citizen Media, Ethnicity & Race, Governance, International Relations

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 [1] 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 [2] those moves.

Fiji’s government hopes that diplomatic maneuverings could still win the day. Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum remained optimistic [3] 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 [4] 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 [5].

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

Café Pacific investigates [6] 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 [7] 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 [8] 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!