Fiji suspended from 16-nation bloc after failing to schedule elections Caitlin Price at 11:55 AM ET
[JURIST] The Pacific Islands Forum [official website] on Saturday suspended [press release] Fiji's membership in the 16-nation bloc after Fiji's current military government failed to meet a May 1 deadline to schedule elections. Niue Premier and Forum Chairman Toke Talagi [official profile] said that the suspension stemmed from Fiji's recent rejection of democratic governance and obligations under the Forum's Biketawa Declaration [text, PDF], adding that a "regime which displays such a total disregard for basic human rights, democracy and freedom has no place in the Pacific Islands Forum." The move suspends Fiji "until further notice" from participating in Forum events or receiving financial assistance for any purpose but the restoration of democracy. Talagi said the possibility of total expulsion had not yet been considered and remained hopeful for Fiji's reinstatement. Fijian Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum [official profile] denounced the suspension [AP report], calling Talagi's statements inaccurate and reiterating that Fiji will not rush to hold elections "at any cost." On Friday, newly reappointed [JURIST report] Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] insisted that elections cannot be held before September 2014 [China Post report] because the nation must first adopt a new constitution. Bainimarama said a five-year timetable for election and constitutional reform will be released later this month.
On April 10, Fijian President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile] suspended the constitution[JURIST report] and revoked the appointment of all judicial officers after a ruling [JURIST report] from the Fiji Court of Appeal declaring the appointment of the military government following a 2006 coup d'etat [JURIST report] unconstitutional. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights then urged Iloilo to reinstate the deposed judges [JURIST report], and concerns about the constitutional suspension have also been expressed [statement text] by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and US State Department [official website] spokesperson Richard Aker, who said that it was a step backwards [press release] for the country, and called on Fiji to continue to recognize rights outlined in the suspended constitution.
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