SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 16) - If Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downers behavior towards interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama at the official opening of the 38th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders is anything to go by, it seems Fiji's leader will be snubbed by our big brothers throughout the Forum.

Bainimarama arrived at Pangai, Nuku΄alofa, the grounds of the official residence of the King of Tonga, to an almost thunderous cheer and clapping from students, delegates, dignitaries, guests and almost all present for the official opening.

"He received rock star reception," observed a foreign journalist.

Downer who was already seated on the main dais ignored Bainimarama by turning in the opposite direction as Fiji’s leader made his way to his seat.

The two leaders sat four seats away from each other.

The silent treatment lasted throughout the two-hour traditional ceremony of welcome, songs and dances by the people of Tonga in very wet conditions witnessed by hundreds of delegates and invited guests.

But it’s too early to tell whether Downer will go down the same path as Ms. Clark and reject Bainimarama at the leaders retreat today at Vava΄u.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Fijilive, Bainimarama received a royal welcome at the Fua΄amotu International Airport yesterday Her Royal Highness Princess Salote Mafile΄o Pilolevu Tuita and Brigadier Tau΄aika 'Uta΄atu Commander Tonga Defence Services.

Fiji's interim Foreign Minister Ratu Epeli Nailatikau, who bid farewell to Bainimarama at Nausori Airport, has strong blood ties to the Tongan royal family. Fijilive also reports that Bainimarama had a one-on-one meeting with Tongan Prime Minister Dr. Feleti Sevele who is also the Chairman of the 38th Pacific Islands Forum ]

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