Monday, October 15, 2007

Voreqe To be Tested

Bainimarama's real test

Monday, October 15, 2007

THE interim Prime Minister will have his mettle tested to its fullest at the 38th Pacific Islands Leaders Forum which starts in Tonga tomorrow.

This will be the real test for him as a leader and as head of the interim Government of Fiji.

Since overthrowing a legitimate government on December 5 last year, Commodore Voreqe Baini-marama has left the country once to address the United Nations General Assembly last month.

Attending the Pacific Leaders Forum will be his second.

But this time, there won't be speeches delivered from a podium afar nor will there be any clapping.

There will be fewer issues on the table, not enough to remove the spotlight from Fiji, and there will be John Howard and Helen Clark, Cmdr Bainimarama's two main critics.

This meeting will test his skills in diplomacy and negotiation, his capacity to handle hordes of veteran journalists and his ability to handle criticism, knowing who his Pacific friends and foes are and an expectant snub from the two leaders of Australia and New Zealand.

Cmdr Bainimarama should remember that at the Forum, he is representing the people of Fiji not the RFMF or the military council.

Therefore, his decisions and his actions at the Forum should be made with that in mind.

If he decides to be confrontational, he could contribute toward splitting the Forum and dividing the Pacific leaders.

It is vital that this does not happen because the Pacific leaders need to be united to address all-important issues like overfishing in the region, drugs and terrorism, global warming and trade.

Cmdr Bainimarama must accept that some of the issues that will be raised at the Forum have merit and need to be looked at such as returning Fiji to an elected government as soon as possible.

A lot of aid money and assistance rest on that.

If Cmdr Bainimarama can look beyond the messenger and see merit in the message, then he will be able to do some good for Fiji at the Forum.

Perhaps, he should also reconsider his team of ministers to Tonga. It's hard to understand what the interim Attorney-General could possibly achieve there in Tonga. A more obvious choice would have been the Minister for Foreign Affairs.

Another choice would have been former Foreign Affairs Minister Kaliopate Tavola, who remains an untapped wealthy source of information and knowledge on regional and international matters.

Cmdr Bainimarama is flying into a Pacific storm brewing at Nuku'alofa. Let us hope he makes all the right choices for Fiji's sake.

Nations need our expertise'

Monday, October 15, 2007

Fiji is a major entry point in the region and its omission from the recent police heads conference in New Zealand will be at the detriment of other island neighbours, says interim Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

"It is a pity the conference has excluded Fiji, because Fiji obviously has a wealth of knowledge and experience it can offer other Pacific nations in terms of addressing transnational crime," said Mr Sayed-Khaiyum.

He said the suspension of Fiji police from the Pacific Island Chiefs of Police (PICP) was "clearly an aberration" in light of Fiji's ongoing participation alongside other regional countries with RAMSI in the Solomon Islands and the involvement of our officers in other peace-keeping assignments abroad.

It is understood the annual PICP meetings, which this year focused on transnational crime and domestic violence, is relative to the Forum Pacific Plan's security pillar.

He said if the PICP was working independently of the forum, then the regional body should highlight the need for a united regional policing approach rather than leaving Fiji in isolation.

Former police commissioner Romanu Tikotikoca echoed similar sentiments, saying Fiji's suspension, which was upheld by the conference in Wellington last week, had practically further opened the door to transnational crime.

"Criminals know no boundaries in the way they operate and with the suspension transnational crime will thrive because that working relationship Fiji enjoyed in the past is no longer in existence," Mr Tikotikoca said.

However, two political parties say the suspension was a direct consequence of the interim regime's actions last year and that the authorities should have foreseen being excluded from the body.

"The outside world has clearly seen the militarisation of the police department. I think all in all, this is a chain reaction that has emanated form the overthrow of a democratically elected government," said Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua party spokesman, Peceli Kinivuwai.

National Federation Party general secretary Pramod Rae said the interim government knew restrictions would be imposed following key appointments.

"It is of their own making and it is still within the ability of the authorities to reverse all these things," said Mr Rae.

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