Fiji military leader defiant over clampdown

April 15th, 2009 - 12:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Wellington, April 15 (DPA) Fiji’s military ruler Voreqe Bainimarama Wednesday defiantly defended his clampdown on freedom of speech, saying he wanted no opposition to his plans to abolish the existing electoral system based on race.
Bainimarama, who has ruled since ousting the elected government in December 2006, insisted in an interview with Radio New Zealand from the Fiji capital Suva that he would not hold fresh elections before 2014.

He said the judges of the Court of Appeal who declared his government illegal were sacked last week and the constitution abolished because they wanted to force him into holding elections under the current system, which favours indigenous Fijians over the ethnic Indian minority.

Emergency regulations were introduced, including posting military censors in local newspaper, radio and television stations and ordering foreign journalists to leave.

“We now decide what needs to be done for our country, for the reforms to be put in place for us to have a better Fiji,” Bainimarama said.

“We want to do these changes, we want to come up with these reforms, and the last thing we want to do is have opposition to these reforms throughout. So that is the reason we have come up with emergency regulations.”

Bainimarama said that a survey showed that 64 percent of Fijians wanted electoral reform.

He rejected foreign criticism of his clampdown, saying: “This is nothing to do with the Australian government and the New Zealand government - this is to do with Fiji and the people of Fiji.”

Bainimarama shrugged off threats of Fiji being expelled from the Pacific Island Forum grouping and the British Commonwealth, saying if they “decide to remove us, what can we do?”

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