The outgoing chairman of the Pacific Islands Forum, Toke Talagi, has called on Fijians to challenge the military rule of Commodore Frank Bainimarama.
Mr Talagi, Premier of Niue, was speaking at the opening of the forum leaders’ meeting in the northern Australian city of Cairns.
He said Fijians should take responsibility for their own destiny.
Mr Talagi stressed the illegality of the Bainimarama regime, saying the forum would not accept its prolonged rule.
“Perhaps citizens of Fiji must now rise . . . to the challenge the undemocratic rule of the military regime and restore democracy for the sake of the future of their children,” he said.
“After all, the people of Fiji must also take responsibility for the reconstruction and the future and their own destiny.”
Australian PM rejects calls
But Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd has rejected Mr Talagi’s call.
Mr Rudd has told the Forum that Pacific states must work together to restore democracy to Fiji peacefully.
“I would emphasise in absolutely clear cut terms the importance of a peaceful solution to the problems which exist within Fiji,” he said.
“They are real problems and that is one of the reasons why the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum agreed on a mechanism for the suspension of Fiji.”
The Australian prime minister is taking over as the secretary of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Earlier, Mr Rudd said he was concerned about the increasingly authoritarian rule in Fiji.
“The arrest of ministers of religion in Fiji is not the Pacific way,” he said.
The forum’s leaders will discuss Fiji’s future in meetings over the next two days.