September 2 - Fiji is still optimistic about being able to take part in next year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi despite the country's suspension yesterday from the Commonwealth because its military regime refuses to hold elections.

Vidhya Lakhan, the President of the Fiji Association of Sport, said he had already written to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to try to ensure that the tiny South Pacific island nation  is allowed to compete in the Indian capital.

The Commonwealth Secretariat imposed the suspension on Fiji after the country's self-appointed leader, Frank Bainimarama said that the country would not hold elections until 2014.

The army seized power in December 2006, accusing the elected Government of corruption and racism toward the country's ethnic Indian minority.
Since then the military has embarked on what it has described as a cleaning process designed to reform public institutions, while censoring the media and clamping down on dissent.

The suspension from the Commonwealth Games is the most high-profile of the sanctions that Fiji will suffer.

It also missed the 1990 and 1994 Commonwealth Games in Auckland and Victoria respectively because of suspensions imposed due to earlier military coups.

But Lakhan claims that the Commonwealth Secretariat does not have the power to prevent them from competing in the Games.

He claims that the CGF is  made up of 71 countries and is governed by its own charter, regulations and protocol.

Lakhan said that Article 7 of the CGF constitution states " there shall be no discrimination against any country or person on any grounds whatsoever, including race, colour, gender, religion and politics". 

Any ban would be felt most keenly among Fiji's big army of rugby supporters.

Their rugby sevens team are among the favourites for a medal in Delhi after winning the prestigious Hong Kong Rugby Sevens in March.

Lakhan said: "If the Secretariat is trying to influence the CGF to bar Fiji from the Games then that is politics interfering with sports.

"If Fiji is barred from the Delhi Games through pressure from the Secretariat, then the Fiji Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee will not take such a move lying down.

"The Committee has written to the CGF seeking clarification on Fiji’s participation in Delhi and is hoping for a clear answer later in the week.”

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September 2009:
Fiji set to miss Commonwealth Games because of suspension