AUSTRALIA HOLDS FAST TO FIJI DEMOCRACY DEMANDS

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Popular elections by 2014 required

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Feb. 15, 2011) - Australia has been again been expressing concern over the failure of Fiji’s ruling regime to make progress towards a return to democracy.

Yesterday, the Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact group on Fiji met in Vanuatu to monitor developments.

Fiji has been suspended from the Forum since 2009, over the regime’s refusal to return the country to democracy.

The group is recommending the Forum maintain its position as Fiji is sticking to an election date of 2014.

Australia’s Permanent Secretary for Pacific Affairs, Richard Marles, says elections can and should be held before then.

The Australian National University Professor, Brij Lal, who was part of Fiji’s 1997 Constitution Review Commission, says interim regime is digging itself in: "The idea seems to be that unless you see things from our perspective, we will have no dialogue with you. So I think there has to be some give and take and this is what is lacking in the current situation."

[PIR editor’s note: In a separate report, Tonga's first elected prime minister has warned that bullying Fiji will only drive it closer to China. He supports restoring democracy in Fiji but is concerned at how Australia and New Zealand are pursuing that goal.]

Brij Lal says there is good will from Australia and New Zealand to further engage with Fiji, but he says there must be some return for both sides

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