Australia’s acting high commissioner to Fiji will be forced to leave on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith says.
Sarah Roberts has been told by the secretary of the Fijian Ministry for Foreign Affairs she would be issued with a formal notice to leave the country on Tuesday.
The decision was both unjustified and disappointing, but Australia would not retaliate, Mr Smith said.
“I’m not proposing to respond in kind,” Mr Smith said.
The foreign minister has been a vocal critic of Fiji’s military regime led by Commodore Frank Bainimarama. In November last year Australia expelled Fiji’s top diplomat in retaliation for a similar move by the Pacific Island nation.
Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth and the Pacific Islands Forum last year for failing to hold democratic elections.
Last month Mr Smith attacked the Fijian government’s decision to limit foreign media ownership in the country to 10 per cent.
Mr Smith said the reason behind Ms Roberts’ expulsion was Australia’s view with other Pacific countries that it was inappropriate to meet with Fiji as part of the Melanesian Spearhead Group Plus.
Fiji is a member of the sub-regional group and Cmdre Bainimarama has been trying to build his support base with other Melanesian countries in the Pacific. “We made it quite clear it was inappropriate,” Mr Smith said.
“That’s t Murray McCully, and advised him of the “disappointing, surprising and a regrettably backward step”.
He had also told him he would not respond by expelling Fiji’s sole diplomat to Australia. he proper reason from Fiji for the expulsion.”