The acting head of Fiji's interim government says Australia and New Zealand wanted the interim regime suspended from the Forum to maintain their political stronghold on the region.
Interim attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says they are ready to engage with Forum members as long as they understand that the path forward will be determined by Fiji. He told Geraldine Coutts from Radio Australia the Forum needs to sort out what they should do next.
KHAIYUM: The question now that needs to be asked is what can the forum do now? What does the suspension now do for the forum? What does it mean for Pacific solidarity? It would appear that the forum and the chair has taken this action simply as a means of reflecting the very extreme position that Australia and New Zealand has taken against Fiji. It's a very sort of extremist attitude of taking this punitive type action as opposed to try and sit down and understand. The reality in Fiji is that the Constitution has been abrogated. There is a new legal order and the prime minister has written to the chair essentially sighting all these instances, stating that this is the state of play in Fiji. Let's sit down and discuss about what's happening in Fiji, what should happen in Fiji, and what we have to say about Fiji, where we see ourselves in the Pacific. But unfortunately, none of this was taken on board. So we have always been willing to engage. They have not engaged. We still want to engage. So we will see what the forum says to that.
COUTTS: But there has been a lack of meeting of the minds. Fiji has got its path forward and the forum and its members have another idea of a path forward, is there a middle ground?
KHAIYUM: Well, I think it all depends on how you see it, because we believe that the middle ground means entering into dialogue and talking to us and coming to us with an open mind. As we've said previously, it would appear, and in particular, the main sort of articulated if you like, the people who are conveying this message are Australia and New Zealand who are saying have the elections at any cost, have elections tomorrow, not withstanding the fact that the system of the electoral system is inherently flawed. It does not comply with universally accepted principles of equal suffrage . So why should Fiji have elections under a system that is flawed that will create further political instability in the medium to short term, simply to satisfy a particular foreign policy. So what we are saying is we want to get it right now. Let's fix up the problem so we do not get into these sorts of issues again.
Now we find it very hard to understand as to why the Australians and New Zealanders are not willing to understand that. There seems to be a very dogmatic approach to while what we have said is right, come what may. And it may well be a case. I mean some people have said to me that perhaps it may well be a case where Australia and New Zealand seem to be not now, simply trying to get "democracy" but it has become more of a geopolitical issue in terms of their sphere of influence within the Pacific and I think that may be really the issue here a stake for that. What we are simply saying is that we need to get things right in Fiji, that's what we are concerned about.
You may also recall that in Fiji, for example, post '87, after the two coups of Rabuka, did not have elections for five years.
COUTTS: But the military did return to barracks a couple of months after?
KHAIYUM: But Fiji never suspended. There is no military on the streets here.
COUTTS: But I think that's a difference that the military went back to barracks a couple of months after the '87 coups and that's the significant difference I think?
KHAIYUM: There is no soldiers out in the street in Fiji. So they are in the barracks. There is absolutely no difference. Well there is a lot of difference in terms of the rational and the motivation and the various bridges that took place in 87 compared to now. But the point is that there is no military on the streets.
COUTTS: Fiji is certainly a founding member of the Forum. Does it come with a responsibility to make sure that it finds its way back into the Forum?
KHAIYUM: I think it's the responsibility of everybody in the Pacific to ensure that all forum members are within the forum itself. It's not simply a question of the onus being left to Fiji. Fiji has always been wanting to engage. The other thing you need to question is the suspension apparently says that we will no longer be participating in any new initiatives. There on the other hand, they are also saying that Fiji is not suspended per say, but if in their words the military regime it's leader, the ministries and officials. So the officials cannot participate, the ministers cannot participate and the prime minister. Then who will represent Fiji? Now these things have not been made clear.
We have just found out that New Zealand that is sponsoring the next round of meetings on PACER and PACER Plus in Vanuatu. Fiji has not been invited to that. Now how can you implement PACER and PACER PLUS with without Fiji being part of it?
Pacific Beat, Radio Australia