Banaban Voice

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Thursday, 29 January 2009

Fiji’s military leader Frank Bainimarama has continued his attack on John Key, accusing New Zealand of using chequebook diplomacy and bullying the Pacific Island Forum’s smaller members.

Bainimarama has also said that the Pacific Forum has over stepped its boundaries by issuing an ultimatum to hold elections by May 1, and reiterated Fiji would hold elections in its own time.

“I just want to make it clear to the population of New Zealand and the people of New Zealand that Fiji’s position is not going to change. Fiji’s position is that electoral reforms must be in place before any election is called,” he told Auckland-based Indian station Radio Tarana.

The military strongman accused New Zealand - and Australia - of wielding unwarranted influence over smaller countries.

"You see, not only have Australia and New Zealand applied chequebook diplomacy to Kiribati and Tuvalu … They have done it in the worst possible way; they have isolated Kiribati and Tuvalu from Fiji."

They had once been Fiji's friends but were now enemies, he said.

He also said the forum had moved beyond its mandate by interfering in the internal politics of its member countries.

“It was never a mandate of the forum that it determine what type of government members should have.”

Individual members had their own governance structures, which should be suited to the individual circumstances of those countries, he said.

Bainimarama defended his government as legitimate, saying that there was a functioning and independent judiciary and there was a constitution. “As I have said continuously … various arms of government are in place and they are operating legally - right now.”

Bainimarama riled at Key’s comments that forum leaders were trying to help Fiji.

“Help Fiji? In what form? What has he done for Fiji besides alienating Fiji from Tuvalu and Kiribati and the rest of the forum island countries?

“That is utter rubbish. We have a legal president, a legal government, a functioning and independent judiciary – we have a constitution,” he said.

Bainimarama said that, if New Zealand wanted to help, it should help with the flood relief effort.

The New Zealand Government has pledged $600,000 to help with flood relief.

Today’s comments follow Bainimarama yesterday accusing Key of being rude and uninformed.

He also told Radio Tarana that he had never heard of such an ultimatum – around the election deadline - before.

"I have never come across a situation where a country gives an ultimatum to another country unless, of course, there is a declaration of war," he said.

Key responded by calling the comments “ridiculous”.

"Fiji can't be helped unless it wants to help itself. It's up to Fiji to accept the hand of friendship."

Key said Bainimarama’s response was to be expected: "Neither New Zealand nor Australia has a beef with Fiji. Our position is quite clear - we are fond of the people of Fiji and we want to help that country,” he said.

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