13 Jul 2010

Bainimarama accuses NZ and Australia of interference

11:37 pm on 13 July 2010

Fiji's interim Prime Minister says his country may not be ready for elections in 2014 because of constant interference from New Zealand and Australia.

Commodore Frank Bainimarama says Australia's acting High Commissioner to Fiji is being expelled because she has been interfering in the country's domestic affairs.

Commodore Bainimarama told Radio Tarana in Auckland the actions are making him seriously think about whether Fiji will hold elections in 2014 as he has previously stated.

His comment that he might delay elections is being called tremendously disappointing by Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully, who also says the interference claim is absurd.

Commodore Bainimarama has also accused Australia and New Zealand of pressuring Vanuatu's Prime Minister, Edward Natapei, to defer a meeting of the Melanesian Spearhead Group, (MSG), which Fiji was due to host and chair.

But Mr McCully says Mr Natapei was clear that the group could not be led by a military dictator.

"It's pretty insulting to say that Prime Minister Natapei for example has deferred the MSG meeting because New Zealand and Australia have influenced him."

Mr McCully says considerable effort has been made to try to ensure that Fiji's leadership understood the importance of sticking to an election date.

"All that process has been set back by the statements he's made today."

Australia's top diplomat expelled

Australian acting High Commissioner Sarah Roberts has been declared persona non grata by Fiji's interim government and handed an official letter of expulsion.

Fiji says the Australian government has been undermining Fiji's sovereignty.

Ms Roberts is understood to be asking for an extension of the 24 hours she has been given to leave Fiji.

Mr McCully says the expulsion of Ms Roberts is completely unjustified and counterproductive on almost every level.

He says it will further diminish Fiji's standing in the international community and delay any recovery in the country's economy.

Labour Leader Phil Goff says it is the fourth expulsion of a diplomat from Fiji, and the interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, is obviously not serious about developing a better relationship with his Pacific neighbours.

He says it is a snub to both New Zealand and Australia.