Monday, 15 December 2008 6:11 AM

Fiji Faces Suspension from Forum

Fiji faces a possible suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat after visiting members of the Ministerial Contact Group learned that the country will not hold elections next year.

According to Fijilive, the 'Pacific Forum Ministers Contact Group will report to the Forum leaders their disappointment with Fiji not holding elections in March next year opening the prospect for its suspension from the Forum'.

According to the report, the group, which comprises of Ministers from Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, made the announcement 'after holding talks with members of the interim Government, political party leaders and other key stakeholders'.

The report quotes Australian Foreign Minister, Stephen Smith, as stating, "We acknowledge today there won't be elections now until the end of March as Fiji had earlier pledged."

"We expect the Forum leaders to consider that and consequences may well flow. It's for the leaders to consider suspension."

According to Fiji Times Online, Mr. Smith said that 'the only thing standing in the way of a general election was political will' and that 'what was required now was political dialogue'.

According to the report, in his address to the MCG, military leader and interim Prime Minister, Voreqe Bainimarama, said that much has been said about him not honouring the commitment to an election by March 2009.

"On this matter, I have been totally transparent and consistent, in indicating clearly, and explaining that the initial time frame of March, 2009 was given, in good faith on my part, on the basis that there was flexibility built into it, given the need for reform of our electoral system."

Mr. Smith added that they "are naturally disappointed" but that they "continue to want to work with Fiji to return Fiji to democracy and an elected government to focus and concentrate on the things that really matter to the Fijian society improving the social and economic conditions and circumstances".

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