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Fiji suspended from Commonwealth for not reinstating constitutional democracy

[JURIST] The Commonwealth of Nations [official website] on Tuesday suspended [press release] the island nation of Fiji [JURIST news archive] from its organization because it failed to meet the September 1 deadline for reinstating a constitutional democracy and opening a national dialogue following its December 2006 military coup [JURIST report]. Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma [official profile] said that a letter received from Fiji's military leader Commodore Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] did not meet the conditions set out by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in July, which called for Fiji's military government to bring back the President’s Political Dialogue Forum (PPDF) process in order to hold independent elections by 2010. Fiji's acting Prime Minister Ratu Epeli Ganilau responded that it was not possible [AP report] to meet the Commonwealth's deadline because of the extent of political reform in the country, and that elections would be held in 2014. Many critics have decried the current regime for human rights abuses, including Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith [official profile] who released a statement [text] Wednesday saying that the planned elections in 2014 are "unacceptable," and that "Australia continues to be very concerned about human rights abuses by the regime, particularly the reduced independence of the judiciary, media censorship, intimidation of opponents, and the recent harassment of Methodist Church leaders."

This is not the country's first suspension from an international organization following the 2006 coup. In May, Pacific Islands Forum [official website] suspended [press release; JURIST report] Fiji's membership in the 16-nation bloc after Fiji's military government failed to meet a May 1 deadline to schedule elections. That suspension followed April events in which 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 the 2006 coup unconstitutional. Niue Premier and Forum Chairman Toke Talagi [official profile] said that the suspension stemmed from Fiji's 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."

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