Pacific Forum gives Fiji ultimatum over elections

January 27th, 2009 - 5:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, Jan 27 (DPA) The 16-member Pacific Forum meeting in Papua New Guinea Tuesday gave Fiji a May 1 deadline to name a date for returning to parliamentary democracy or risk sanctions.Reports from New Zealand said that if a date was not set, and elections not held this year, the forum would not let Fiji attend leaders’ meetings or receive aid from the grouping.

Fiji strongman Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who ousted the elected government in a bloodless coup two years ago, did not attend the meeting because he said he was required in Suva to oversee flood-relief efforts.

Bainimarama reneged on his promise to hold elections in March and now says constitutional changes are needed ahead of a poll, and that it didn’t matter whether such changes took five years or 10 years to bring in.

Bainimarama boycotted the forum’s annual summit last year at which Pacific leaders said they would consider taking the unprecedented action of suspending Fiji from the forum because of the military leader’s broken promise.

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