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Fiji suspended from Pacific Islands Forum ove -

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Reporter: Rachael Brown

PETER CAVE: Fiji's military government has ruled out setting an election date for this year,
earning it suspension from the 16-nation Pacific Islands Forum.

The Government had until today to set a date, but the military dictator and self-appointed Prime
Minister Frank Bainimarama, says it'll be at least five years away.

He wants to meet with his Australian and New Zealand counterparts, who've refused, given his
defiance of the ultimatum.

International commentators say the deadline was inappropriate in the first place.

Rachael Brown reports.

RACHAEL BROWN: Fiji's self-declared Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama warned Pacific island leaders
in January not to hold their breath waiting for Fiji elections.

He said it would be a long wait and today he stuck to his guns, defying an international ultimatum
to set a date for this year or have Fiji suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum

FRANK BAINIMARAMA: I think we made it quite clear that is not going to happen.

There'll be no election until September 2014.

RACHAEL BROWN: He told Sky News it was set after the president abdicated the constitution, so he'll
be sticking to that, and extending the country's state of emergency.

FRANK BAINIMARAMA: We want this calm to continue for a while.

The emergency regulation was brought entirely for the media censorship, to ensure that there's calm
in the nation.

There's no incitement.

RACHAEL BROWN: The World Today contacted a number of Fiji residents, all were reluctant to comment
on the country's political climate, including the former prime minister Laisenia Qarase, who was
deposed of at gunpoint in 2006.

In the Sky interview, Commodore Bainimarama adds in 2006 he was pressured by Australia's Defence
Chief Angus Houston.

FRANK BAINIMARAMA: He says it didn't happen. Well it did happen. I was in Sinai and he woke me up
early in the morning to tell me, 'Don't ever do anything that will pit my troops against yours.'
The implication was, it was a threat

RACHAEL BROWN: He wants to meet with Australia's Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who has flatly refused.

KEVIN RUDD: This is the bloke who just abolished freedom of the press in Fiji. This is a bloke who
just sent independent judges, including those from Australia, packing. This is a bloke who just
suspended the constitution of Fiji.

We invited Fiji to announce an election timetable within a reasonable timeframe. Not only did they
not respond to that, but they then went in exactly the reverse direction.

RACHAEL BROWN: A spokesman for New Zealand's PM John Key says Commodore Bainimarama has had ample
opportunity at forums in Niue last year and Port Moresby in January for discussion, and says all
the forum nations are united in their condemnation.

However, academics are criticising the stonewalling.

The University of Auckland's Dr Hugh Laracy.

HUGH LARACY: These people who are criticising him, I think are being naive and not recognising the
practicalities of his difficult situation.

RACHAEL BROWN: What would you have suggested they adopted instead of this ultimatum?

HUGH LARACY: Get closer to him and talk about it, and be rather less ready to apply doctrinaire
solutions to a very significant problem.

Current politics hasn't just come out of nowhere. You can see this going right back into the 19th
century.

RACHAEL BROWN: Dr David Neilson from New Zealand's Waikato University says Commodore Bainimarama is
being boxed into a corner he'll find difficult to get out of.

DAVID NEILSON: If we had taken his project at face value and given more constructive support to
facilitate the re-establishment of a robust election system, we may have furthered the cause of a
return to democracy more effectively then what we've done.

Which is basically to make it more and more difficult for that to happen as the regime gets bogged
down with the effects of economic sanctions, and as it also lacks the kind of technical expertise
to create a robust election system.

So he ends up having to sit in an indefinite position where he needs to make democratic reform, but
that's difficult, but he wants to ensure that the reform occurs in a way that the SDL (Soqosoqo
Duavata Ni Lewenivanua Party), and Qarase in particular, can't become the government again.

PETER CAVE: Dr David Nielsen from Waikato University ending that report from Rachael Brown.