Defiant Fiji delays polls till 2014

Military leader defies international pressure and now faces further isolation.

    Bainimarama says the country needs many changes before holding elections [EPA]

    Further isolation

    Fiji is the first country ever to face suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum since it was founded in 1971.

    Murray McCully, New Zealand's foreign minister, said he expected other bodies including the Commonwealth, the UN and the EU to follow the forum's lead and move to further isolate Fiji.

    "There will be no election until September 2014. That's the deadline"

    Frank Bainimarama,
    Fiji's military leader

    The UN Security Council had also demanded this month that Fiji hold immediate elections to restore democracy.

    Bainimarama who staged a coup in 2006 that toppled the democratically elected government of Laisenia Qarase, had previously promised to hold polls by this year, and then 2012, before now pushing it back even further to 2014.

    He has since imposed new emergency restrictions, including sending troops and police into media and government offices to gag opposition to his reform plans.

    He also said he would probably extend emergency laws in the country.

    "I think there will be a need to continue that [emergency regulation]. We want this calm to continue for a while," he said.

    Fiji was plunged into fresh political crisis this month after Ratu Josefa Iloilo, the nation's president, reappointed Bainimarama as interim prime minister, less than two days after the country's highest court ruled that the 2006 coup and subsequent government were illegal.

    Iloilo then fired the judges involved in the decision and suspended the national constitution.

    Call for talks

    Bainimarama also said on Friday that he wanted urgent talks with leaders from Australia and New Zealand to resolve the standoff over democratic reforms and avoid the threat of tougher international sanctions.

    "They need to understand, there are a hell of a lot of changes we need to come up with before we have an election, and it's not an overnight thing, unfortunately for them," he said.

    Fiji, a former British colony, has experienced four coups and a military mutiny since 1987, fuelled by tensions between indigenous Fijians and economically powerful ethnic Indians.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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