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Fiji Regime: EU Rebuke Over Latest Dispute …

  • July 19th, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

fiji-man.jpgThe latest deed of the military regime in Fiji, to further separate itself from democratic practice in the Pacific region, been criticised by the European Union, a substantial development partner.

The head of the military government, Commodore  Frank Bainimarama (picture), has spoken of cancelling elections proposed for 2014, invoking memories of an earlier undertaking to hold the elections by March 2009.

His reason was alleged “colonial” manipulation, after participating countries cancelled a meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, set to be held in Fiji this week.

Commodore Bainimarama would have become the rotational chairman of the regional forum, acquiring some enhanced diplomatic standing.

The Australian and New Zealand governments were said to have organised the cancellation, in line with sanctions against his rule, and Australia’s acting High Commissioner, Sarah Roberts, was expelled from the country (13.7.10).

The European Union has joined in invoking sanctions, most tellingly a withdrawal of preferential access for sugar to EU markets, though humanitarian aid in emergencies is not affected.

EU policy is to link governance standards with development cooperation, and Fiji’s reversion to military rule has put a brake on plans for a regional cooperation scheme that was to have been based on Suva.

Its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, has criticised last week’s action to expel the Australian ambassador.

A spokesman issued the following at Brussels:

“The High Representative regrets the announcement by Fiji’s Government … on the expulsion  of Australia’s acting High Commissioner.

“This represents a new setback for Fiji’s relations with the international community after indications of gradual improvements earlier in the year.

“Fiji’s interim government’s restricting ties will only further its isolation and undermine all efforts towards re-engagement.

“HR Ashton appeals to Fiji to engage instead in meaningful dialogue with all its partners, including the EU.

“HR Ashton reiterated her concern about military rule in Fiji and called on the interim government to take steps to comply with the commitments previously made to the EU and the wider international community with regard to the respect for democratic principles, the rule of law and human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“HR Ashton in particular called for the repeal of the Public Emergency Regulations and the start of an inclusive national dialogue process as repeatedly announced by the interim Prime Minister.”

The interim government in Fiji, which has had soldiers posted in news rooms, has also brought in additional controls on mass media, including an ownership ban demanding the end of all foreign holdings — or closure of the publications.

See also, EUAustralia Online: “Fiji aid plans scuttled”, 19.4.09; “Fiji Military Defiant, Braves Sanctions”, 12.4.09.

Reference

EU Delegation, Canberra; Statement by the spokesperson of HR Catherine Ashton on the expulsion by Fiji of the acting Australian High Commissioner, 19.7.10.

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