Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Somare offers tacit support to Bainimarama

Posted by Pacific in the Media, April 20, 2010
NZPA and the National Business Review.

The Papua New Guinean Prime Minister, Sir Michael Somare, offered self-appointed Fijian Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama some tacit support today.

Sir Michael was in Wellington as part of his four-day trip to New Zealand. He was officially welcomed to Parliament in a formal ceremony and then went into bilateral discussions with Prime Minister John Key.

When asked by reporters what he thought of the recent media crackdown in Fiji, Sir Michael said it could be taken in two different ways.

"We hope there is always understanding, for any developing country, particularly in the small island states like Fiji... sometimes you know there must be understanding by media, try to really interpret what the real thinking in the minds of island people are and maybe it's looking at things in a different way than you in the west look at it."

The media should consider people's way of living, he said.

"I'm talking about understanding, you've got to understand the Pacific people, their motives and their way of thinking, their characteristics and try and translate and report on what they believe."

He was quick to qualify his statement by saying he hoped Cmdre Bainimarama would change his mind and bring forward elections in Fiji.

"He's made up his mind, he's going on 2014. "I'm hoping that the time will come when he'll come good and tell us when the elections are going to be held," Sir Michael said.

While he was not sympathetic with Cmdre Bainimarama there needed to be understanding of him and the Pacific people, he said.

"Not so much I'm sympathetic but I think he needs for us to understand him.

"I think we need to get him to know that it's important for the majority of people and as far as democracy is concerned in our countries (that elections be held)."

Sir Michael said if Cmdre Bainimarama wanted to "come back into the fold" with the Pacific Islands Forum and Commonwealth, both of which Fiji has been suspended from, he would need to do some "serious thinking".

He thanked Mr Key for inviting him and for New Zealand's continued support.

His visit confirmed the "well-established relationship" between the two countries.

PNG was looking to phase out aid over five years and to focus on more "technical support" and proceeds from domestic coffee, cocoa and coconut industries, he said.

Mr Key said they had discussed the economic situation in PNG, the large LNG find there and progress and remaining challenges in Fiji.

"We talked about the desire New Zealand has to see democracy restored to Fiji, hopefully sooner than 2014."

Cmdre Bainimarama toppled Fiji's elected government in a December 2006 coup and has since abrogated the constitution and cracked down on media freedom. 

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