An item from New Zealand:
Fiji suspension will go ahead, says McCully
Published: 4:08PM Friday May 01, 2009
Fiji faces suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum at midnight Friday and Foreign Minister Murray McCully doesn't see any way it can be avoided. "We will see the suspension go ahead in sorrow, not in anger," he told reporters. "The process is automatic. I expect the chair of the forum, Premier Talagi from Niue, to make an announcement in the next couple of days."
The forum gave Fiji's military leader and self-appointed prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama until May 1 to set a date for elections this year. Bainimarama has ignored it, and on Friday he said again there would be no elections until 2014.
In an apparent bid to stave off suspension, he said he wanted urgent meetings with New Zealand Prime Minister John Key and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to explain the changes to Fiji's electoral system he believes are necessary before elections can be held.
McCully was sceptical about Bainimarama's real intentions. "He has been ready to talk plenty of times in the past and then has either not turned up or let down the people he's talked to," McCully said. "I think prime ministers Key and Rudd will be able to assess the sort of treatment they're likely to get."
The 16-member forum is regarded internationally as the lead agency in dealing with Fiji, which has been under military rule since Bainimarama seized power in 2006.
The Commonwealth is likely to follow the regional body.
McCully said he expected Fiji's leaders to pretend they didn't care.
"We just have to wait," he said.
"If they don't want to have elections, they're not going to have them.
"If they want to wreck their economy, they're going to.
"All the international community can do is say we're prepared to be patient, we'll be there to help when the time comes."
McCully said the door was still open if Fiji decided it wanted to make progress towards democracy but he had no faith even in Bainimarama's commitment to elections in 2014. "He also said there would be elections by March 2009," he said. When the suspension is in force, the forum has to address the question of whether it should move its secretariat from Suva.
McCully said there were two issues around that - whether it was appropriate to keep it there, and whether Bainimarama was prepared to allow it to continue to function without interference. Forum leaders would consider the first issue, and he hoped Fiji would see the importance of allowing it to continue to operate and reduce the pressure for it to be relocated.
Meanwhile, Christian missionaries Paul Norman and Michael Fa'amoana Vala'auafea said in a statement from Auckland on Friday the agenda of western democracies was potentially taking "a dangerous turn that could fuel unnecessary serious suffering" in Fiji. "The politically based decision of a previous New Zealand government to withhold entry visas for medical treatment of ordinary Fijian citizens has already cost unnecessary suffering and loss of life," they said. "Western democracies need to show the benefits of democracy by mercifully continuing to do things that help the average Fijian in health, employment and housing - traditional economic support from western governments needs to be fine tuned, but not withheld."
The missionaries said most Fijians knew that their last so-called "democratic election" was not clean.
"Democratic elections in Fiji cannot be democratic if the last fiasco is not sorted first. For now, without the necessary changes being made, `free and fair elections' in Fiji are an impossibility."