Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bainimarama's FORUM ANGER

Fiji Sun News - 6 June 2010
The Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has raised questions about the role of the former Samoan diplomat, who is the Pacific Islands Forum secretary-general in Suva. 
This follows a new report by the secretary-general, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, claiming the situation in Fiji has worsened across the board.

Commodore Bainimarama said Tuiloma has neither met with him nor left his own Suva office at the Forum Secretariat to find out what is really happening in Fiji.
He questioned the motives of Tuiloma - who has close links to Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi - in giving this report.


Tuilaepa wants the Secretariat, which Tuiloma heads, moved from Fiji, probably to Samoa.
He has strongly supported the Australian and New Zealand governments in their efforts against Fiji.


Commodore Bainimarama’s questions came after Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, revealed the report from Tuiloma indicated that “across the board, things have got worse in Fiji”. 
Mr Smith was in Auckland for a Forum Ministerial Contact Group meeting on Fiji last week, where Tuiloma’s report was presented. 
The five-member contact group includes both Mr Smith and New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully, as well as a representative of Tuilaepa.




That meant more than half the contact group was made up of critics of Fiji. 
Commodore Bainimarama questioned why this meeting relied on Tuiloma’s report and disregarded a briefing by Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola on behalf of the Government. 
The Prime Minister is understood to have been angered because of the way Ratu Inoke was treated, after going to Auckland in good faith, to brief the contact group. 
Commodore Bainimarama told Fiji Broadcasting Corporation (FBC) News: 
“They have also taken the liberty to believe the report by the Forum Secretariat who sits in his office the whole day. I haven’t seen him around in any of the provinces.




“I haven’t seen him go out and I haven’t seen him visit the provinces and grassroots people of Fiji to get their views on the situation.” 
Commodore Bainimarama said Tuiloma has never made an effort to meet with him to discuss the situation in Fiji. 
Following the Auckland meeting and comments by Mr Smith and Mr McCully, Commodore Bainimarama withdrew an invitation for the contact group to visit Fiji. 
He said they were only interested in criticising Fiji and were ignoring all the developments and reforms in Fiji and public support for his Government. 
Commodore Bainimarama said it seemed Ratu Inoke was only invited to the Auckland meeting so he could be belittled.




He added: “If they think the situation in Fiji has worsened financially, then they should know we are not the only country that was hit by the global financial crisis.” 
Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum in 2009 after declining to follow an election timetable pushed by Australia and New Zealand. 
Fiji was one of the founders of the Forum and has constantly hosted the Forum Secretariat in Suva. 
The Secretariat,off Ratu Sukuna Road has about 125 staff. Its sprawling compound includes offices, a conference centre and housing for senior staff.



Tongan Prime Minister, Feleti Sevele, confirmed after the Auckland meeting that there has been discussion about moving the Forum Secretariat from Suva. 
But he said it would be too expensive. 
There have been allegations in such respected publications as Islands Business magazine that Canberra and Wellington are increasingly dominating Forum affairs. 
They are known to be worried about a Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) meeting in Fiji next month which Commodore Bainimarama will host.




At this Commodore Bainimarama will take over as chairperson of the MSG, which includes the region’s four biggest island nations but excludes Australia and New Zealand. 
Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu make up the MSG nations, with the Kanaks of New Caledonia also included. 
As part of the MSG summit here, Commodore Bainimarama has invited some other Pacific Islands leaders to join them for what will be known as MSG Plus. 
Canberra and Wellington are believed to be pressuring these island countries to stay away. 





One of the significant factors of the MSG is it the only major Pacific Islands inter-governmental grouping where Australia and New Zealand do not have a presence. 
It is being seen in some circles as a counter to Australian and New Zealand domination of the Forum. 
The MSG has its Chinese-built headquarters in Port Vila, Vanuatu.It also has a preferential trade agreement between its four member countries.

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