HAWAII SCHOLAR EXPLAINS HIS ROLE IN FIJI DISPUTE

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Halapua moderates informal ‘Talanoa’ dialogue

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Oct. 28, 2008) - Dr. Sitiveni Halapua is not paid by the interim Government to be one of the interlocutors of the political forum chaired by interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama.

He said all expenses incurred while traveling in and out of Fiji were paid by the East West Center of which he was employed.

[PIR editor’s note: The East-West Center, located in Honolulu, Hawaii, is a hub for cooperative research, education and dialogue between the Asia-Pacific region and the United States. Dr. Sitiveni Halapua is director of the center’s Pacific Islands Development Program. ]

"This is my job to help restore democracy in countries facing problems in the Pacific and it is very normal," he said.

Halapua said he assisted whenever the Government of the day in any of the Pacific nations requested his services.

He said Fiji benefited from that because it was a member of the standing committee for the Center.

Halapua said the Center was similar to the Pacific Islands Forum but the formats adopted were different.

He said when ousted Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase was in power he came in to assist the Fiji Government.

On whether he was suited to be an interlocutor considering that the previous Talanoa talks had failed, Halapua said it was unfair to blame the disappointment on him.

He said the Talanoa talk was a forum and not Parliament where final decisions rested and that was what people needed to understand.

"At the end of it all everything rests with Parliament that is how it is in a democracy," he said. "Two good things that came out of the Talanoa was the agreement to reform the sugar industry and the need to set up a parliamentary committee to receive human rights complaints. The other two regarding the land issue and the need for minor amendments to the Constitution were issues before the House and therefore the Talanoa talks should not be blamed for that being stalled."

The task of the interlocutors - Halapua and Robin Nair - is to identify issues raised by each political party for the agenda of the Presidents Political Dialogue Forum.

Bainimarama said the interlocutors would consult and work towards a draft terms of reference and agenda for the Presidents Forum, and prepare for the next meetings.

Halapua said it would take them five weeks to complete their work.

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