FIJI REGIME CALLS FORUM DECISION ‘REGRETTABLE’

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Blame placed on Australia & New Zealand

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 2, 2009) – Fiji’s suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum is "regrettable," says Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

"It is regrettable for a number of reasons. The announcement was made by a press statement without any formal notification by the Forum. It was only at the prompting of the government that a diplomatic note was received this morning at approximately 11:10am," Sayed-Khaiyum said at a press conference.

"It is apparent that despite our Prime Minister writing to the chair highlighting the change in dynamics in Fiji, vis-à-vis the new legal order, the fact that elections cannot and should not be held under an obscured electoral system, and Fiji’s willingness to engage with the Forum taking into account the facts and ground reality, the Forum and its chair has chosen to ignore the circumstances in Fiji and the willingness of our government, the willingness of Fiji to engage in a constructive and meaningful manner," he said.

Fiji’s suspension was announced in a statement this morning by Forum chairman Toke Talagi, who said it was a difficult decision "unanimously made" between all Forum leaders in Papua New Guinea in January.

It was decided that if the Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama-led government did not return Fiji to democratic governance in an "acceptable time frame," Fiji would be suspended.

"A regime which displays such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom has no place in the Pacific Islands Forum. Nevertheless, we look forward with great hope to Fiji’s earliest possible return to constitutional democracy, through free and fair elections, when we will be able to restore this country to its rightful place among our family of Pacific Islands Forum nations," said Talagi.

Sayed-Khaiyum slated this statement, and hinted at it reflecting the views of Australia and New Zealand.

"Such inaccurate statements do not lend credibility to the analysis and conclusions arrived at by the chair. Such inaccuracies and holding on to dogma begs the question whether the Forum is holding on to particular ideas, ideas that are factually incorrect. They appear to be based on representations made by only a few with political agendas and are reflective of positions taken by the metropolitan powers in Wellington and Canberra."

He said the "untenable proposition that elections should be held at any cost immediately, even under a flawed system, is not only patronising, but demonstrates a lack of commitment to true democracy and sustainable parliamentary representation."

Fijilive: http://www.fijilive.com

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