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Thursday, September 3

Fiji's suspension taken with regret, says McCully

Fiji's suspension from the Commonwealth is the result of Commodore Bainimarama's refusal to take meaningful steps to return Fiji to democracy, Foreign Minister Murray McCully said the other day.

"Under Commonwealth rules, countries are given two years to return to democracy or face suspension," Mr McCully said.

"At its meeting in July the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) agreed to provide the Fiji regime with a further opportunity - until 1 September - to permit genuine political dialogue, and a prompt return to democracy.

"Regrettably this opportunity was not taken.

"As Secretary-General Sharma has said, the decision to suspend Fiji from the Commonwealth was one taken more out of sorrow than of anger.

"But if there is one thing that underpins the Commonwealth, it is a shared commitment to democracy, rule of law, and human rights, and Fiji has been given plenty of warnings that it has to show some respect for those basic principles.

"The Commonwealth's decision follows Fiji's suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum in May this year.

"Full suspension from the Commonwealth is yet another strong message from the international community to Fiji's military regime that they must make meaningful progress towards a rapid return to legitimate government.

"Fiji was suspended from Commonwealth Ministerial and Heads of Government meetings immediately after the coup.

"The Secretary-General has made it clear that the suspension will include an end to technical assistance to Fiji, except assistance aimed at restoring democracy, and Fiji will not be able to participate in Commonwealth sporting events, including next year's Commonwealth Games," Mr McCully said.

A Commonwealth delegation will visit Fiji later this month to discuss assisting Fiji to return to democracy.

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