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Saying Australia, New Zealand influenced his decision ‘BS’

By Tamara McLean

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, May 5, 2009) – Samoa’s outspoken prime minister has dismissed the suggestion that Australia and New Zealand bullied small Pacific nations into removing Fiji from the regional forum.

Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi has been angered by comments this week from Fiji’s military regime that the decision to suspend Fiji’s membership to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) was pushed on Pacific countries by forceful big neighbours.

"We weren’t pushed. We supported it. Fiji needs to stop implying that this is all about Australia and New Zealand and accept we don’t want them either," Tuilaepa told AAP on Tuesday.

"We are sick of the arrogant bullsh.t they are giving out".

Fiji was suspended from the PIF on May 1 after the country’s military leader Frank Bainimarama did not heed the forum’s deadline to hold an election in 2009.

Bainimarama, in power since a December 2006 coup, has now delayed elections until 2014 so he can overhaul the country’s unfair electoral system, further frustrating the region.

Discussions are now underway over whether the forum’s Suva headquarters need to be relocated, with several Australian and New Zealand politicians arguing it is untenable for it to remain.

Tuilaepa said he believed it was commonsense to move it.

"It would be wrong for an organisation that upholds democracy to continue to exist in a country that does not," he said.

"In that sense, it must be moved."

Samoa has been mooted as an alternative because of its relative political stability and status as the next largest island nation, but the prime minister was tight-lipped on the idea.

"Of course we would like to help out the forum in any way we can but it’s not for us to put our name forward."

Tuilaepa has been vocal in his disregard for Bainimarama’s leadership and in February branded the unelected prime minister a thief and a liar and urged Fijians to "wake up and reclaim your government".

He also upset Bainimarama by mocking his "ridiculous" full military garb.

The Samoan leader on Tuesday said the regime’s failure to go to the polls was "appalling".

"As a neighbour, it is a very big embarrassment to us," Tuilaepa said.

"And it will continue to be until the regime realises it has got to go back to the barracks."

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