Coup Fears Drive Pacific's Push For Fiji Democracy
Fears Of Military Takeover Drives Pacific's Push For Fiji Democracy
The vulnerability of some Pacific Island states to military takeover was a prime motivation for regional forum leaders who are pushing so strongly for Fiji to return to democracy.
Toke Talagi, who assumed chairmanship of the Pacific Islands Forum at its leaders' annual summit on Niue last month, believes forum member countries have to take a strong stand to dissuade any groups contemplating grabs for power.
The Niue leader said the forum had to maintain its principles, credibility and integrity. (Toke Talagi, pictured left)
In case there was "any perception by any group in any country that they can take over militarily any of the countries in the region," he said, the forum had to make a very strong statement that as a political organisation, members would not tolerate such action.
At a post-forum leaders' retreat media conference, Mr Talagi revealed the forum's plan to consider suspension of Fiji from its ranks if the country did not return soon to democracy. He made passing reference to the vulnerability of some countries.
Mr Talagi has since explained he meant some countries in the region could be "exposed to some kind of take over" by groups emboldened to change governments or force change after seeing what had happened in Fiji.
Some might regard the forum's stance on Fiji as showing tolerance, but Mr Talagi's view was that the forum's reaction showed its response was based on principles prescribed in the Biketawa Declaration. It allowed for due process to take place before substantive measures such as suspension were invoked.
Asked if leaders at their retreat discussed the ramifications of vulnerability in some member states, Mr Talagi said: "Not a great deal. We are certainly aware of that."
Question: "Were any examples given?"
Mr Talagi: "No. There's no need for any examples to be given. We all know within ourselves what could occur."
Question: "Do you think some countries are more vulnerable that others?"
Mr Talagi: "They probably are but it is hard to determine vulnerability arbitrarily like that. Since there were no measures of evaluation done, then it is impossible to assess who is and who isn't more vulnerable."
Question: "It is not hard to guess?"
Mr Talagi: "No and I am not in the guessing game."
He agreed with comments by Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi that forum leaders agonised for hours over the use of the word 'suspension' as an option on how they would deal with Fiji.
Confirming use of the term was not taken lightly, Mr Talagi said: "That it was made clear that it was an option to be considered is also extremely important."
John Andrews is managing director of Pacific
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