Australia ‘stopping Fiji democracy’

The Pacific Islands Forum’s stance against Fiji’s continued military regime is expected to be reaffirmed when the forum meets in Vanuatu next week, New Zealand’s Prime Minister John Key says.

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Fiji coup leader Frank Bainimarama has said it would be ready for elections and a return to democracy in 2014, but says Australia and New Zealand are undermining efforts to achieve that.

Australia and New Zealand declined to attend an Engaging Fiji meeting in Nadi, Fiji, last week, an event organised after the formal Melanesian Spearhead Group meeting scheduled to be held in Fiji today was called off.

Commodore Bainimarama said Australia had conspired to dissuade Pacific nations from attending the MSG meeting. Tensions led to Australia’s acting high commissioner, Sarah Roberts, being expelled from Fiji this month.

Key told TVNZ this morning there was no reason the commodore should break his promise of holding elections in 2014, and that New Zealand was prepared to help financially or in any other way to ensure that happened.

He said he disagreed with Bainimarama’s assertion that New Zealand and Australia kept “hitting them in the side”.

New Zealand had been reasonable with its sanctions against Fiji and had tried to reach out and offer assistance.

No action had been taken by high commission staff in trying to undermine any informal meetings of island nations, he said.

Fiji was expelled from the Pacific Islands Forum last year and Key said he expected members would retain that stance at next week’s meeting.

“I think we should remain resolute in our commitment to excluding Fiji from the forum until he demonstrates he is going to hold those elections,” Key said.