Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Leaders Unhappy, Strong Reaction Expected

Leaders Unhappy, Strong Reaction Expected
20/08/2008

The pressure is mounting on Fiji as New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark has met with a number of Pacific Island leaders in Niue on Commodore Frank Bainimarama's non-attendance at the Forum as she pushes for a tough stand to be taken against Fiji.Speaking during a press conference in Niue, Clark said the leaders are unhappy and a strong reaction is definitely expected tomorrow during the Leaders Retreat.
“I have no doubt at all that the Ministerial Contact Group report will be supported. I’ve spoken to the Samoan Prime Minister who was on the Group, the Papua New Guinea Prime Minister. I’ve spoken to a number of leaders. People are feeling very frustrated. They feel that the least that the Commodore could have done is come to Niue and explain himself. And he hasn’t done that. And what we’ve got is a diatribe about the Ministerial Contact Group report, which is a good report. So I think there is no question we will adopt the report and that means we will be expecting the Ministers (the leaders) to come back by the end of the year with further recommendations.”Clark said the Forum Foreign Ministers report has stressed after visiting Fiji that there are no problems in Fiji going to election by March 2009.She said the only problem is Commodore Bainimarama and his administration which has refused to come up with a concrete timetable to ensure that elections take place next March.
“The report will be released but in short it’s drawing the conclusion that there is no technical, administrative or managerial reason or other commitment that the Commodore gave the leaders in March in Vavai last year can’t be honoured. And that was for an election by the end of March next year. The only thing that is lacking is the political will. And what I’m hearing from others who have been in Fiji is it’s not just that the Commodore’s borking at the commitment he gave for March 2009, there is no time table. For 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 or any other time.”Meanwhile Outgoing Chair of the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum and Tongan Prime Minister Doctor Feleti Sevele said he is disappointed that Bainimarama had said that Sevele led him into believing on what type of commitments to make to the Forum in Tonga last year.
“I am disappointed that he is not fulfilling his commitments and I am disappointed that he is not here.”Doctor Sevele also said he has not replied to Interim Foreign Minister, Ratu Epeli Nailatikau's letter raising concern on Fiji not being allowed to have its bilateral meetings in NZ like other island countries.He also said most of the bilateral are being held at the venue of the forum.
“Well I had not replied to that. That is an issue for Fiji and New Zealand to take up. But we are holding most of our bilaterals here in Niue.”The leaders retreat will be held tomorrow and the main topic on the agenda is the absent forum member, Fiji.

NZ/Aust To Push For More Bans and Expulsions
Publish date/time: 20/08/2008 [07:40]
Australian Prime Minister (PM) Kevin Rudd and his New Zealand (NZ) counterpart Helen Clark have arrived in Niue for today's Pacific Islands Forum, aiming to convince the Forum for strong action to be taken against Fiji.There are now suggestions that NZ and Australia may be looking at a Forum outcome which could include Fiji's expulsion from the Pacific Forum and a push to have other Pacific Island countries imposing travel bans on Fiji. Clark told NZ reporters that she is already expecting a strong reaction from the Pacific leaders.
“If someone is not prepared to come and be accountable for breaking commitments given to leaders a year ago, that itself speaks volumes. So I expect that there will be a robust outcome from the Forum.”Australian PM Kevin Rudd said Fiji cannot just trample on democracy and not expect a strong reaction.
“We in the South Pacific, and Pacific Island countries in particular, take democracy seriously. That is why we don’t believe that we can sit idly by while the principles of democracy are shredded.”Rudd said Bainimarama has made things worse by not attending the Niue Forum.
“It would of being far better for the leader of Fiji to sit down with the leaders of the Pacific island countries and answer for the commitments which have been previously given by Fiji.”Our reporter Ronal Deo is in Niue waiting for the Forum proper to commence.
“The Pacific ACP leaders meeting will follow the small island states meeting at the Millennium Hall in Alofi, Niue, this morning. Many journalists raised concerns that they were barred from speaking to the Pacific leaders at Alofi airport last night. New Zealand police officers who are assisting Niue police to provide security stopped journalists from getting closer to the leaders. Three planes jetted in to the airport last night. The NZ flight from Auckland had NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark and most of the Pacific Island leaders. Following that was an Australian Aircraft Hercules which brought in about a dozen Australian journalists. Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his executives arrived in his private jet. About the Pacific ACP leaders meeting, it is expected that the sugar and fisheries issue will be topping the agenda. The official opening for the 39th Pacific Islands Leaders Forum meeting will be around 1pm Fiji time at the Alofi Green. The new Chair for the Forum will be Niue’s Premier Toke Talagi.”

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