Thursday, August 6, 2009

Pacific Islands Forum: Rudd Plays Down Calls For Fiji Coup

By Rich Bowden

Img: Pacific Islands Forum logo.

Speaking in Cairns at the annual Pacific Islands Forum, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has rejected calls for an uprising against the recalcitrant military rule of Commodore Frank Bainimarama in Fiji saying he was in favour of a "peaceful" settlement to the problem.

Mr Rudd, taking over as host of this year's Forum, was reacting to comments made by outgoing chairman Nuie Premier Toke Talagi, who appeared to support an armed takeover by the Fijian people to restore democracy.

Describing the military regime's promise of elections in 2014 as "unacceptable" Talagi spoke directly to the people of Fiji.

"Perhaps citizens of Fiji must now rise... to challenge their undemocratic rule of the military regime and restore democracy," Mr Talagi said.

"Their self-imposed road map for elections to be held in 2014 is unacceptable."

However Prime Minister Rudd used his acceptance speech in north Queensland to back away from the premier's comments saying Pacific nations must work together to form a "peaceful solution" to the Fiji crisis.

"I would emphasise in absolutely clear-cut terms the importance of a peaceful solution to the problems which exist within Fiji," he was quoted as saying by Radio Australia. "They are real problems and that is one of the reasons why the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum agreed on a mechanism for the suspension of Fiji."

"...I believe what the Premier of Niue was referring to was that the people of Fiji themselves ought also to be seized of the challenges which their democracy now faces."

New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key also backed the Australian PM saying dialogue, not confrontation, was the best course of action.

“You can’t have a good coup and a bad coup, we have encouraged Frank Bainimarama to engage in dialogue with the Forum leaders in Fiji, both with Qarase and with Chaudhry, we think that’s the right course of action, not some sort of uprising by the people against the military coup,” Mr Key told Radio New Zealand International.

Military forces led by Commodore Bainimarama seized power in Fiji in a December 2006 coup. The interim Fijian government suspended the country's constitution earlier this year after a court found the coup illegal and reneged on promises for elections delaying them until 2014.

Fiji has been suspended from this year's Pacific Islands Forum.

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