Fiji gets passport to poverty: New Zealand PM

March 9th, 2009 - 1:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, March 9 (DPA) Fiji military strongman Commodore Frank Bainimarama is delivering his country “a passport to poverty” with his refusal to hold democratic elections, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Monday.
“He needs to recognise that if he wants Fiji to progress and to be taken seriously by both the (British) Commonwealth and the Pacific Forum leaders he needs to demonstrate that he has got a willingness for democracy to be restored,” Key told reporters at his weekly news conference.

Bainimarama, who seized power from the elected government in a bloodless coup in December 2006, has rejected appeals by the Commonwealth and fellow leaders in Pacific island countries to hold elections this year.

The European Union and US have also told Bainimarama, who has declared himself prime minister, that they will not revive their badly needed economic aid to his South Pacific nation of 932,000 people until he restores democracy.

A group of ministers from the 53-member British Commonwealth who met in London Wednesday said Fiji would be suspended in September if Bainimarama did not go to the polls this year.

Bainimarama immediately responded by saying: “If they want to suspend Fiji, they can do it now. Nobody is going to interfere with what we are trying to do. There’s going to be no election.”

Leaders of the 16-member Pacific Forum said last year that Fiji, a founding member of the paramount regional organisation, will be suspended if it does not announce an election date by May.

Key said New Zealand was willing to help Fiji with money or administrative assistance to hold elections “but at this stage there doesn’t appear to be a lot of desire by Bainimarama to move”.

Bainimarama has consistently said that he wants to change the voting system which favours indigenous Fijians over the ethnic Indian minority before holding fresh elections.

He blames the system for four coups which have toppled elected governments in Fiji since 1987, damaging the economy and scaring off investment capital.

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