Australian Proposal Shameful: Chaudhry
SUVA (Pasifik Nius): Labour leader Mahendra Chaudhry says Australia's proposal for Fiji to provide a processing centre for refugees seeking asylum is a shameful display of chequebook diplomacy, reports the Daily Post.
Chaudhry said yesterday Australia's offer of economic assistance to buy Fiji's sovereignty was tantamount to offering a bribe.
He was reacting to the Laisenia Qarase Government's likely decision to host some 1000 refugees.
Foreign Affairs Minister Kalipate Tavola has indicated that government is seriously considering the deal.
Tavola yesterday said that if the deal was accepted, Australian would bear all the costs and provide an infrastructure.
"We will look for the area that would be developed because Australia will provide for water, roads, electricity and other infrastructure," he said.
He said that there was a possibility that some jobs would be created - "for instance, for security alone, locals may be recruited to provide security."
Asked about the site, Tavola said the government had many sites in mind but would consider them once the deal went through.
"We have islands and remote places in kind - places that could be benefit from the developments offered," he said.
But Chaudhry warned that once Fiji opened its doors to the asylum-seekers, it could be possible that other refugees will head their boats directly for Fiji.
The Coalition on Human Rights chair, Rev Akuila Yabaki, also condemned the Australian Government's recent handling of refugees, particularly from Afghanistan.
"Australia, due to its comparatively superior financial and economic position, has no need to exploit its Pacific neighbours, namely Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and possibly Kiribati as processing centres for refugees," Rev Yabaki said.