Fiji Sun

SUVA, Fiji (Jan. 21, 2009) – It’s not too late. Common sense and Fiji’s best interests can still prevail if interim prime minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama reverses his decision not to attend next Tuesday’s Pacific Islands Forum leaders’ summit on Fiji. This is the historic meeting of forum leaders that will consider Fiji’s status within the regional family of nations and it makes no sense that Cdre Bainimarama will not be among those leaders to make Fiji’s voice heard. His reason for not attending - the disastrous floods of nearly two weeks ago - is not taken seriously either at home or abroad.

The military regime’s ill-conceived policy of obfuscation, delay and, unfortunately in one case, downright untruth towards the forum is now coming back to haunt it. The forum is not a body that can be jollied along with false promises. It cannot be fobbed off with feeble excuses that are patently no more than attempts to buy time while the military tightens its grip on power over the people of Fiji. And the interim PM’s plea for a deferment of the Port Moresby meeting will now be seen as just another attempt at delay.

The patience of the island leaders is close to exhaustion. Behind the public politeness is a growing frustration over the Fiji regime’s delaying tactics and its refusal to meet with them. If Cdre Bainimarama persists in his decision not to go to Port Moresby, there is a very real danger that the region’s patience will finally run out and Fiji will be the poorer for it. For whether or not the interim prime minister is present, Fiji will be discussed next Tuesday and while suspension is an unlikely outcome, the regional leaders will not stand idly by as the Fiji junta treats it less than respectfully. Nor will they look the other way as Fiji moves ever closer to pariah state status.

Already the prime minister of New Zealand has publicly doubted that Cdre Bainimarama ever intended to face his regional peers next week and in doing so he only gives voice to what so many people in Fiji and in the wider region are already thinking. The prime minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, the acknowledged senior island leader who went to such trouble to host next Tuesday’s meeting, has asked Cdre Bainimarama to explain his decision not to attend. He hopes to talk to the commodore directly in an effort to persuade him that his presence next week is in everybody’s best interest. We can only hope that Sir Michael has more success than any of his colleagues.

The question he and the other regional leaders want answered is: Why? Why won’t Cdre Bainimarama come to them and tell them of his plan to restore democracy in Fiji? Meanwhile people at home are asking the same question and are receiving the same answer - that is to say no answer at all. It’s not too late. There is an Air Niugini flight from Nadi to Port Moresby on Saturday morning which excludes any need to transit in Australia. All of Fiji hopes that our interim prime minister will be on it.

FijiSUN: http://www.sun.com.fj/

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