Commonwealth Gives Fiji September 1 Deadline

By Angela Marie Watkins
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SUVA, Fiji – The Commonwealth will suspend Fiji on September 1 unless the South Pacific island nation re-activates a multi-party political forum intended to pave the way for a credible national election by October 2010.

After a seven-hour meeting, ministers agreed that Fiji must commit by September 1 to holding elections by October next year or face full suspension from the Commonwealth. “The group noted that Fiji’s situation with regard to fundamental Commonwealth values had deteriorated strikingly since March,” the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group said in a statement.

In March, the Commonwealth gave Fiji a six-month deadline to restore democracy, three years after military leader Bainimarama overthrew the elected government.

If a country is fully suspended, it loses access to Commonwealth advice and technical assistance. Commonwealth member states are encouraged to take further steps such as limiting government-to-government contacts. Full suspension from the Commonwealth would also mean Fiji athletes would not be able to compete in the Commonwealth Games next year.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully, who represented New Zealand at the meeting, said he was not optimistic that the new deadline would bring about a change of heart for the Fiji regime. “The economic situation i