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Former PM Namaliu reportedly called "puppet" of Australia

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, March 18, 2009) – The Papua New Guinea Government is angered over reports that the [Fiji] interim administration rubbished the integrity of former prime minister Sir Rabbie Namaliu after rejecting him to be chief mediator at the upcoming President's Political Dialogue Forum.

The matter has forced Forum co-ordinator Jone Dakuvula at the Prime Minister's Office to write to PNG to denounce what he labeled were "mischievous" reports that threatened to damage long-standing relations.

In a press conference on Tuesday, PNG's Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare and Foreign Minister Sam Abal slammed reports that Fijian politicians had labelled Sir Rabbie a puppet of Australia and New Zealand".

"If the comments are true, it is indeed a sad day not only for our region but internationally, said Mr Abal, according to PNG newspaper, The National.

"So, if this is true, it is not only an insult to me but an insult to the Government and people of Papua New Guinea.

For him to be labelled a puppet is grossly unfair and not befitting of a highly respected Papua New Guinean."

He continued that while PNG has and would continue to help Fiji out of its political situation, they would "not stand back and allow our highly respected citizens to be called names publicly.

Mr. Abal also confirmed that the Commonwealth had sought Sir Rabbie to be the chief mediator in the upcoming Forum.

"When the Commonwealth Secretariat requested Sir Rabbie for the role of facilitator, I did not hesitate to support their recommendation for him to deal with the ongoing political dialogue in Fiji," he said.

The PNG government has directed its High Commissioner to Fiji, Peter Eafeare, to verify the reports.

Mr. Dakuvula, in a letter to The National yesterday, said local media reports were erroneous as Mr. Bainimarama made "no such decision" to reject Sir Rabbie's appointment as chief mediator and that "in fact the matter is still to be decided by the Political Parties Meeting on April 9, 2009".

He added that it was in fact the interim government who recommended Sir Rabbie to be chief mediator.

The (interim) Fiji Prime Minister has also made no comment about Sir Rabbie Namaliu, either at the meeting of political parties on Friday, March 13, or publicly to any news media in Fiji, he stressed to The National.

The misreporting of this matter by the news media in Fiji is entirely due to the activities of some persons who leaked confidential information from the UN and the Commonwealth Secretariat."

Meanwhile, Soqosoqo Duavata ni Lewenivanua spokesman Peceli Kinivuwai was taken to the army camp this morning.

Mr. Kinivuwai, who has since returned home, did not wish to elaborate on the reasons he was summoned to the military headquarters.

He said the incident was not important at this stage.

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