Friday, August 14, 2009

Commonwealth and Fiji Agree to Continue Dialogue Despite Threat of Expulsion

By Rich Bowden

Img: Fiji Parliament House, Suva. Credit: timoshea95/flickr

Though recent moves by the Commonwealth to expel Fiji for not agreeing to commit to elections by 2010 have soured relations between the two, both have agreed to keep open lines of negotiations despite not being able to arrange a mutually convenient time for a visit by a Commonwealth delegation.

A statement released yesterday by Eduardo del Buey, the spokesperson for Kamalesh Sharma, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, said the Commonwealth had received an invitation from the Interim Government of Fiji inviting it to send a representative to discuss the body's move to ban Fiji if it refuses to commit to 2010 elections within a month.

The Fiji military government, which seized power in a December 2006 coup, revoked the country's constitution earlier this year and has refused to stage elections until 2014.

According to the spokesperson's statement: "...the Secretary-General conveyed an immediate and positive response to the Fiji Interim Government, proposing that a delegation led by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Fiji, Sir Paul Reeves, visit Suva on specific dates in August."

However the government of Fiji, led by interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama rejected the dates proposed for the visit by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Fiji, Sir Paul Reeves as being unsuitable.

Both the Fiji government and the Secretary-General though have reiterated their agreement to initiate dialogue.

Commodore Bainimarama, speaking on Indian-Fijian radio station Radio Tarana, said his government was willing to arrange discussions with the Commonwealth.

"I will give a formal reply to the secretary-general of the Commonwealth on Fiji's position before September," he said.

"If the Commonwealth decides to suspect Fuji after receiving that reply, there's not much we can do about then, eh?".

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