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Says first priority is to remove corrupt establishment

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, September 28, 2009) – Fiji will have to get rid of its old elite and their influences before it fully embraces democracy, Fiji’s Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has told world leaders.

"The way of the old elite must never triumph again," he said at the 64th UN General Assembly on September 26, 2009.

Bainimarama tried to convince world leaders that the timeline the international community demanded for Fiji to hold election was not in the long term interest of Fiji’s people.

"The people of Fiji deserve better than the short term band-aid solutions we have experienced over the past decades," he said, while also outlining his roadmap to elections in 2014, 8 years after seizing power. There must be reforms before elections to ensure that democracy is sustainable for Fiji's long term future."

[PIR editor’s note: See full text of Bainimarama’s statement to the United Nations General Assembly.]

To critics of his timeline, Bainimarama said "the answer is very simple, at least to those who know and understand Fiji's history. Fiji has had a colonial history which created many anomalies and inequalities, the legacy of which resonates today. Consequently and of the making of the politicians, our post-colonial period has been punctuated with political instability. On each occasion that a new government is voted into power, the old elite which benefited financially from the previous established government has been able to successfully destabilize the government and to replace it with its own supporters and representatives. This was only possible because those institutions of the State which were supposed to protect democracy and democratic values, instead colluded with the elite, to destabilize and replace the new government. In order to ensure that democracy has a real chance of survival in Fiji's future, serious, and principled reforms must be implemented to build roads, institutions and values. Together with infrastructure, the hearts and minds of our people must adopt and cherish true democracy."

[PIR editor’s note: According to the Fiji Times, New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters criticized Bainimarama’s statement, saying it drew a misleading picture about the situation in Fiji. "For people who do not know the facts, Commander Bainimarama's speech might have left the impression that Fiji was on the road back to democracy. The actual situation is, however, quite the contrary," Peters said. ''Concerns about the unjustified nature of the coup have been registered throughout this year in the context of the Pacific Islands Forum through its Foreign Ministers meetings, Eminent Persons Group, and the Forum-Fiji Joint Working Group."]

Bainimarama attributed the emigration of some of the country’s "finest brains" to a "country governed by ethno-nationalism".

"They could see no future" here, he said.

In an earlier interview, Bainimarama said his Government had "removed just about all the people for abuse of authority, abuse of office and abuse of funds".

"These people were part of the elite group of government. It was nepotism throughout and we could see that. So we wanted to get rid of it.

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