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Volume 502: debated on Monday 7 December 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent steps he has taken to encourage Fiji to rejoin the Commonwealth. (304711)

Following the military coup in December 2006, Fiji was suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth. The situation deteriorated further in April 2009, with the abrogation of the constitution, suspension of the courts, censorship of the press and re-establishment of Public Emergency Regulations. In July, Military Commander and interim PM, Voreqe Bainimarama, announced a ‘Roadmap for Change’, which ruled out holding democratic elections until 2014. As a member of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, the UK took a full role in discussions which led to Fiji's full suspension from the Commonwealth on 1 September 2009. The regime can be erratic: the Australian and New Zealand Heads of Mission were suddenly expelled on 3 November 2009. This was the third New Zealand Head of Mission expulsion since the coup.

Full suspension from the Commonwealth means Fiji is no longer eligible for Commonwealth technical assistance, and can no longer participate in Commonwealth sporting events. While the Commonwealth Games Federation has voted to exclude Fiji from the Commonwealth Games, Fiji officials continue to lobby for Fiji participation. The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) reinforced suspension from the Commonwealth calling for an early return to democracy, respect for human rights and respect for the rule of law. CHOGM also made clear that sporting ties under the Commonwealth name are inseparable from the values of the association.

The Commonwealth is keen to readmit Fiji, but only when the regime demonstrates a clear and committed willingness to return to democracy and adhere to the principles of the Harare Declaration, which includes a commitment to the respect for fundamental human rights. The UK continues in its policy of engagement with the regime to work towards these common objectives, both in Suva and in other capitals, and works closely with the EU, UN and regional partners in encouraging Fiji towards an early return to democratic principles and the rule of law.