Bainimarama blocking Fiji elections, says Smith
By Pacific correspondent Campbell Cooney, ABC news, 9 Oct 2008
Commodore Bainimarama is accused of standing in the way of holding fair elections. Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith says Fiji’s coup leader and interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, is the obstacle preventing the country’s return to democracy.
Fiji’s High Court has ruled the military’s removal of the elected government in 2006 was not illegal under the country’s constitution.
But Mr Smith says Commodore Bainimarama is standing in the way of holding fair elections. “Whatever he holds up as his excuse or his reason, it’s a breach of faith and it’s a lack of honour,” Mr Smith said.
“He looked his colleagues, the leaders of the Pacific Forum, in the eye and said he would have an election and he is breaking that faithful undertaking if he doesn’t.
“We continue to be of the view that the only thing that is stopping an election in Fiji is political will.”
Ousted prime minister Laisenia Qarase has criticised the High Court decision upholding the legality of the 2006 coup which removed him from power.
In handing down the High Court judgement, Fiji’s Acting Chief Justice, Anthony Gates, said the military’s removal of the elected government of Laisenia Qarase and its support for an interim government was not illegal under the country’s constitution.
Mr Qarase says the High Court has given legitimacy to military takeovers. “The judgement virtually gives you a passport to future coups,” he said.
Fiji’s interim Attorney-General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, says he is satisfied with the decision and has called on everyone involved in the case to abide by its findings. Mr Qarase has not ruled out an appeal.
High Court dismisses Fiji coup case
The legality of the coup had been challenged by the prime minister who was removed from office in December that year. In its judgement, Fiji’s High Court found the military’s removal of the elected government of prime minister Laisenia Qarase, in December 2006, and its backing of an interim government, was not illegal, under the country’s constitution.
The judgement also supports the actions of the country’s head of state, President Ratu Josefa Iloilo. The court has judged Mr Iloilo was also acting legally by supporting the decision of coup leader and interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama, including the President’s decision to enact laws granting immunity from prosecution for anyone involved in the coup, or for their actions since it was staged.