WELLINGTON — Samoa's prime minister on Friday accused Fiji strongman Voreqe Bainimarama of lying about his pledge to hold elections in 2014, saying his Pacific neighbour wanted to retain power "at any cost".
Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, was leading the people of Fiji and the international community "down the cassava patch" with his pledge to hold a poll in 2014.
"Promises from the military regime of general elections in two years? time are a pipe dream," Tuilaepa said in a statement.
"It?s just more deception and creating more false hope among Fiji citizens and the international community. It's synonymous of those who rule by the gun without a mandate from the people."
Bainimarama announced in January 2 that he would lift emergency laws in place since 2009, when a Fiji court ruled his coup was illegal, winning cautious prise from long-time critics of his regime Australia and New Zealand.
But days later he strengthened public order decrees to give the police and military sweeping powers, in a move Sydney-based foreign policy thinktank The Lowy Institute said amounted to "one step forward, two steps back".
Tuilaepa has long been the south Pacific's most outspoken critic of the regime in Fiji, which is the strongest economic power in the region.
Others, such as Kiribati President Anote Tong, have argued Fiji remains part of the "Pacific family" and its expulsion from international groupings such as the Pacific Islands Forum should be reversed to encourage dialogue.
Tuilaepa said Bainimarama, who has previously reneged on a promise to hold elections in 2009, could not be trusted.
"This is just the latest in what?s become an endless litany of lies and excuses to hold on to power," he said.
The Samoan leader said Fiji's people were "gradually awakening" and Bainimarama could not suppress them indefinitely.
He accused Bainimarama of stacking the upper echelons of the public service with unqualified army colonels and said there was no room for military rule in the Pacific.
"It?s extremely odd and embarrassing to see soldiers patrolling the streets of Suva with bazookas," he said.
"The Pacific Islands region is not used to seeing these frightening images of trigger-happy idiots in full war garb trudging up and down the road."
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