Fiji Olympic boss threatens World Cup boycott

Vidhya Lakhan says RWC 2011 matches should take place outside New Zealand due to travel sanctions on Fiji's military.

    Fiji took on eventual winners South Africa in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup 2007 [GALLO/GETTY]

    The head of Fiji's Olympic Committee says the South Pacific nation should boycott the Rugby World Cup this year if sanctions imposed by New Zealand prevent it from selecting its best team.

    New Zealand has imposed travel sanctions on Fiji since the nation's military, under Commodore Frank Bainimarama, seized power in a December 2006 coup.

    Sanctions prevent members of the Fiji military or their families from visiting New Zealand.

    Fiji will name its initial 50-man squad for the World Cup on June 4 and several players with military links are likely to be included.

    Vidhya Lakhan, president of the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee, told the Fiji Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that the International Rugby Board (IRB) should consider moving Fiji's matches from New Zealand if sanctions were applied.

    He said the New Zealand government had no right to interfere in the selection of the Fiji team.

    "If New Zealand does not allow the best Fiji selection to take part in the RWC, then IRB should reschedule Fiji's matches in another country that will allow the best Fijian selection to take part in the Rugby World Cup," he said.

    "And if IRB is not willing to do that, then Fiji should consider boycotting the RWC. That is our position."

    Footballer visa denied

    Lakhan said the IRB should follow football's governing body FIFA, which moved a World Cup qualifier between New Zealand and Fiji from New Zealand in 2009 when Fiji goalkeeper Simione Tamanisau was denied a visa.

    Tamanisau had family links to the military.

    The IRB has called on New Zealand to relax sanctions against Fiji during the World Cup but Prime Minister John Key has said his government will not.

    "At the end of the day, we don't take our riding instructions from the IRB," Key said.

    "Our view is that we want to see democracy restored in Fiji. This is the only thing that we've got that holds their feet to the fire."

    Australia has imposed similar sanctions against Fiji.

    When Bainimarama took power he suspended the Pacific nation's constitution, dismissed its judiciary, imposed strict media censorship and suspended democratic elections.

    SOURCE: AP


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