13 Jul 2010

Fiji leader threatens to delay 2014 elections - blames Australia and New Zealand

3:34 pm on 13 July 2010

Fiji's interim Prime Minister says his country may not be ready for elections in 2014 because of constant interference from Australia and New Zealand.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama says Australia's acting High Commissioner to Fiji Sara Roberts is being expelled because she has been interfering in Fiji's domestic affairs.

He's also accusing Australia and New Zealand of pressuring Vanuatu's Prime Minister Edward Natapei to defer a meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, which Fiji would have hosted and chaired.

Commodore Bainimarama told Auckland-based Radio Tarana their actions are making him seriously think about whether Fiji will hold elections in 2014 to which he'd previously committed.

"I'm all of a sudden thinking that we might not be ready for 2014 for elections if we don't get any assistance from Australia and New Zealand for instance. If you look to 2014 and we're not ready because of constant interfering, we are not going to give up a government to a political party, a government that's not prepared to go into an election."

The interim Prime Minister says the MSG meeting will not proceed, because Mr Natapei and Australia are raising the issue of Fiji's chairmanship of the group.

But he says other Pacific leaders are still welcome to meet in Fiji as planned.


Meanwhile, Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard says the expulsion of Australia's top diplomat in Suva is uncalled for.

Julia Gillard says its of grave concern that Fiji continues to take itself beyond and outside the workings of the international community.

She says Australia will be making its protest at the expulsion of Sara Roberts very clear to Fiji.


New Zealand's Foreign Minister is also condemning the expulsion, describing it as completely unjustified and counterproductive.

Murray McCully says he rejects any suggestion that pressure from Australian and New Zealand caused the collapse of the Melanesian Spearhead Group summit that Fiji would have hosted.

He says the claim is deeply insulting to Vanuatu's Prime Minister Edward Natapei who needed no help from New Zealand or Australia to work out that democratic principles should prevail within the region.


The leader of the main opposition Labour Party in New Zealand, Phil Goff, says the expulsion is a snub to both New Zealand and Australia.

He says Commodore Bainimarama, is obviously not serious about developing a better relationship with his Pacific neighbours.

This is now the fourth time that he has done that. It's unprecedented in Australia and New Zealand's relationship diplomatically with other countries. He seems to be wanting to snub his nose at New Zealand and Australia. It's hard to see that he's genuine in his intent to improve the relationship.