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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 17:30 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 17:30 | SYDNEY

For Fiji's sins, no sevens

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2 September 2009 15:25

Fiji was suspended from the Commonwealth yesterday after it failed to meet the conditions set out by the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) on 31 July. CMAG had sought a commitment from Fiji to reactivate the President’s Dialogue Forum process and hold elections by October 2010.

The Commonwealth's stick came with the proverbial carrot – Secretary-General Sharma said he welcomed Commodore Bainimarama's invitation to meet Commonwealth Special Representative Sir Paul Reeves this month and looked forward to continuing his engagement with Fiji.

Fiji has set something of a Commonwealth record for rogue states. It was expelled from the organisation in 1987 for ten years and suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth after the 2000 coup and again after the 2006 coup. The only other country to have been fully suspended was Nigeria. Pakistan has been suspended twice from the councils of the Commonwealth.

Although experience suggests Commodore Bainimarama will not be troubled by the suspension, there is one new element to this decision that might bother him. For the first time since the December 2006 coup, sporting sanctions have been invoked against Fiji – the suspension means Fiji cannot participate in the Commonwealth Games, due to be held in New Delhi next year. 

Not such a big deal for most countries but for Fiji's famous and hugely popular rugby sevens, the Games are a big opportunity. Fiji has won two silver medals and one bronze medal in rugby sevens in the last three Commonwealth Games. Bainimarama plays rugby himself and is an avid sevens fan. He might feel a bit sorry that he will miss the opportunity to watch Fiji play for glory in New Delhi.

Interestingly, New Zealand's Foreign Minister, Murray McCully, who is a member of CMAG, believes there is nothing more foreign countries can do to encourage Fiji back to democracy now. He is probably right but it's a sad message for the people of Fiji.

Photo by Flickr user bigeoino, used under a Creative Commons license.

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