24 Feb 2010

Fiji threatens to quit Commonwealth

8:24 pm on 24 February 2010

Fiji says it will consider withdrawing from the Commonwealth if it continues to meddle in the country's affairs.

Fiji's interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, told FBC News that the Commonwealth had not tried to understand or listen to Fiji's aspirations, but had been posing the same questions over and over again about the return to democracy.

The Commonwealth suspended Fiji last year after it refused to bow to demands to call elections by this year.

Commodore Bainimarama says he will pursue his agenda with or without the support of Australia, New Zealand or the Commonwealth.

He says he plans to relinquish power to an elected government in 2014.

Eight acquitted

Eight men have been acquitted of charges of conspiring to kill Fiji's interim attorney-general and former finance minister in 2007.

Justice Paul Madigan made the ruling in the High Court in Suva on Wednesday, but a charge of conspiracy to murder Commodore Bainimarama stands.

Justice Madigan said he acquitted the men, including a high chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, because there was no evidence they conspired to kill Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and Mahendra Chaudhry.

He referred to evidence from a state witness, Lance Corporal Peniasi Kuli, who said their names were not mentioned during a first meeting where an alleged assassination plot was discussed.

The witness said their names were mentioned only once in a subsequent meeting.

Emergency regulations extended

The interim government has extended public emergency regulations for another 30 days.

The decision was announced by President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau.

The regime imposed the emergency rules in April when the constitution was abrogated after a court found that the interim government was illegal.

Under the regulations, police, military and public servants have the powers to stop events they deem to be a threat to the country's security.

The regime has said that once a new "media decree" is released, the emergency regulations can be lifted.

However, the regime has already banned the annual Methodist Church conference for the next four years.