Monday, 30 June 2008

Canberra envoy in new Fiji threat

The Australian government has repeated its request for the Fijian government to provide better security for its diplomatic staff in the capital, Suva.
It follows a death threat against Australia's top diplomat in Fiji, the third in recent weeks.
Australia has been a frequent critic of Fiji's military government, which staged a bloodless coup in 2006. It has questioned whether leader Frank Bainimarama will fulfil his promise to hold democratic elections by 2009.
The latest threat against Australia's diplomatic staff in Fiji arrived in the post on Friday. It is believed to have been made by people unhappy with Canberra's policies towards the South Pacific country, and in particular its frequent criticism of the interim military government. The death threat was sent to High Commissioner James Batley and was described by officials as a "serious, credible and a disturbing development".
It is the third time in recent months that threats have been made against him - one was delivered to the high commission in Suva by taxi.
Mr Batley has temporarily left the country, but was due to do so in any case on personal leave which had been arranged earlier.
The Fijian government is believed to have stepped up security around the Australian compound, but the Rudd government would like it to do much more. In particular, it wants to send in close personal protection officers from the Australian Federal Police - it has done for some time, but its request has not yet been granted. Relations between the two countries have further soured in recent weeks.
Earlier this month, Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said he doubted the commitment of the Fijian military to hold elections by 2009, despite the appointment of a poll advisor.