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Australia Too Soft On Fiji: Samoan PM
Source: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-15/an-samoa-disagrees-with-carr27s-fiji-comments/4466012?section=australianetworknews
Source Date: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Samoa
Created: Jan 15, 2013

Samoa has hit out at Australia's sympathetic reaction to Fiji's scrapping of a draft constitution that received submissions from thousands of people.

On Monday, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said he understood why Fiji's military government decided to discard the draft, saying it had the potential to foster ethnic divisions in the country.

"The re-creation of an unelected Great Council of Chiefs would seem to give rise to the suggestion that ethnic divisions in the country were going to be exaggerated by new constitutional arrangements.

"I can find it understandable that the interim government has objected to both these features of the draft constitution presented to it." he said.

But Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele, disagrees with Mr Carr's approach.

He told Radio Australia Mr Carr's belief that the Fijian interim government will hold elections next year is misplaced.

"When the draft constitution copies were burned, my suspicion was still there that all this is whitewash actions by the Bainimarama regime.

"They never had any intention of going along and having a general election." he said.

He says Australian and New Zealand sanctions on Fiji have historically not been strong enough to push Fiji's coup-installed government towards a free and fair election, saying both countries have been more concerned with the impact of sanctions on the general public.

Tuilaepa says, unlike Africa, sanctions on a military dictatorship would not hit the Fijian people hard.

"The Pacific should never be equated with Africa, where once a dictatorship has taken place the supporters of the dictatorship would roam the countryside terrorising and killing and raping.

"That is not the Pacific. In the Pacific people just go on living their own lifestyles."

'Where is Bainimarama?'

But Tuilaepa says it is time for the other Pacific nations to ask some hard questions of Fiji.

"We have our standing committee of foreign ministers and I think it is time now for the committee to pay another visit [to Fiji] and talk to the government and find out what the hell they're up to." he said.

He is also critical of the Fijian Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, saying he was behind the police raid which seized printed copies of the draft constitution document and burned the printers' proofs.

"Where is Bainimarama? Where is he hiding? That's the fellow who is needed at this time. What is evident is that he is hiding while pushing these boys to do his dirty work."

Commodore Bainimarama says his legal officers will write a new constitution to be presented to a constituent assembly appointed by him.

Tuilaepa says the whole process has been revealed as a sham.

"When the draft constitution was prepared and the next part of the [process] was to pick the assembly, that is where the decisions were to be made. That process is now denied and it proves the military never had any intention of going through with its promises."

Fiji's interim government says its determined to meet its election deadline of September 2014.

The country's Information Ministry says preparations are underway in earnest to assemble materials needed throughout Fiji to conduct the scheduled polls.

The interim government is inviting companies within Fiji and abroad to register their interest in supplying such items as ballot boxes, polling kits, ink, voting booths and voting screens.
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