Fiji government rejects democracy timetable

SUVA, Fiji, AP

Fiji’s military-led government on Wednesday rejected demands from its South Pacific neighbors that it return the country to civilian rule within two years, saying elections cannot be held for at least three.

Pacific Islands Forum states last week demanded that Fiji hold elections within 18 months to two years, and that its military rulers return to their barracks and hand power over to a civilian interim government. The 16-member bloc endorsed a report condemning the Dec. 5 putsch in Fiji. The report concluded that elections could be held at least a year earlier than the military leader’s timetable of 2010.

In its first response to the report, Foreign Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau on Wednesday said the government would hold further talks with forum representatives to “provide the necessary information/evidence … why we are saying that the elections can only be held after three years.”

“This government is committed to the holding of parliamentary elections sooner rather than later so long as the requirements of holding a fair, free, legally constituted and properly held election are met,” he said in a statement.