FIJI CALLS SUSPENSION NECESSARY SACRIFICE

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Commonwealth puts recalcitrant member out in cold

MELBOURNE, Australia (Radio Australia, Sept. 2, 2009) – Fiji's military government say the country's suspension from the Commonwealth is a regrettable, but necessary sacrifice.

Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth was confirmed Tuesday night, after the island nation's military-backed regime refused to commit to holding elections next year.

In the leadup to the deadline, the interim government said it would not change its position, and there would not be elections till 2014.

Fiji's acting interim Prime Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau, on Wednesday told local media, the passing of the deadline last night will not mean that election will be brought forward, and Fijians will have to accept the sacrifices being made on their behalf, by his government.

That sacrifice includes the country's barring from sending a team to next year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.

A senior Commonwealth official says Fiji's suspension from the international body is not designed to punish the people of Fiji, but to restore democracy.

Deputy secretary-general Mmsasegko Masire-Mwamba says the suspension means Fiji will be excluded from Commonwealth meetings.

She says Fiji also will not receive development assistance, although the Commonwealth will provide support to help restore democracy.

Ms Masire-Mwamba has told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the Commonwealth still wants to engage with Fiji.

It could have taken further steps, such as calling for trade sanctions, the official said.

She said: "The Commonwealth could call for sanctions, as well within their mandate, but they have no sanctions that have been called for in the case of Fiji and so, therefore, all that has been suspended is the bilateral (link) from the Secretariat to Fiji.

"But the trade relations and the other relations that they have with other countries of members of the Commonwealth are still going according to their own bilateral arrangements."

The suspension announcement was made by Commonwealth secretary-general Karmalesh Sharma.

"The Republic of the Fiji Islands stands fully suspended, with immediate effect," Mr Sharma said.

The action comes nearly three years after the 2006 Fiji coup, and four months after Fiji was suspended by the Pacific Islands' Forum.

The Commonwealth group of nations is an international grouping based around the former British Commonwealth

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