Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 21:22 | SYDNEY
Thursday 16 Aug 2018 | 21:22 | SYDNEY

Pacific Forum lost on Fiji

6 August 2009 09:14

Sanjay Ramesh is a Research Associate at the University of Technology, Sydney. He has written on Fiji previously for The Interpreter.

The outgoing chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum and the Premier of the Pacific Island nation of Niue, Toke Talagi, called on Fijians to challenge the military rule of Commodore Frank Bainimarama at the opening of the Pacific Islands Forum in Cairns yesterday. The call was immediately rejected by the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, who requested a peaceful solution.

The lack of consensus among the Forum Island leaders on Fiji reflect a failure of the approach so far. On 1 May, Fiji was suspended from the Forum for not holding general elections, but time and time again Pacific Island leaders, including Australia and New Zealand, have failed to come up with a democratic model that will resolve inter-ethnic tensions between indigenous Fijians and Indo-Fijians and struggles for political power within the indigenous community.

Endless calls for democracy from the Forum leaders reflect a considerable lack of understanding of Fiji’s complex political landscape. Recent criticism from the Cook Islands, Samoa and Niue has not helped. In particular, calls from Niue Premier Talagi had the potential for creating a situation in Fiji that would end in a bloodbath.