Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bainimarama snub opportunity: US - Friday, April 13, 2007

COMMODORE Voreqe Bainimarama's refusal to meet US deputy secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Glyn Davies has been labelled "a missed opportunity".

Mr Davies said a meeting would have encouraged the two parties to have an open exchange of views.

"I come here as a friend of Fiji representing our country's longstanding, historical, cultural and economic ties to your proud nation," he said.

"I come here with deep concern about the negative political, social and economic consequences of the coup and its impact on Fiji's future.

"It has been my intention to meet with Commodore Bainimarama during my visit but he has not agreed to meet with me.

"His decision is unfortunate and represents a missed opportunity."

Mr Davies said the US supported the Pacific Islands Forum Eminent Persons Group (EPG) report.

Like the Forum, he said, the US called for a rapid return to the rule of law and democracy in Fiji.

"Consistent with the Forum-endorsed EPG recommendations, there are three basic categories of actions we believe the military and interim government must take," he said.

"First, the military needs to get off the street. This means more than simply turning checkpoints over to the police," he said.

"It means the state of emergency needs to be lifted, human rights and full civil liberties need to be restored and the military needs to stop interfering in the lives of ordinary Fijians.

"Second, the military needs to get out of politics and public institutions.

"Members of the military, including Commodore Bainimarama, need to withdraw from positions in government and allow civilian leaders to take their place. The military and interim government need to cease all interference in the judiciary and other accountable institutions, and the Chief Justice should be reinstated.

"Moreover, citizens need to be ensured the right to seek legal redress in the courts for events related to the coup and its aftermath.

"Third, the military and interim government need to relinquish power to a new civilian government via elections to be held within 18 to 24 months, if not sooner. Speaking for the United States, we would urge the elections be held earlier within 18 months." Mr Davies said a quick return to democracy was not just a political necessity but an economic one and Fiji's future prosperity depended on it.

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