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Natapei blocked Fiji leader’s wish to lead Melanesian block

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Dec. 4, 2010) – Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama last night hailed the ousting of Edward Natapei as Prime Minister of Vanuatu and Chairman of Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) as a milestone for better relationships among the Melanesian brotherhood.

[PIR editor’s note: The Melanesian Spearhead Group is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1983. It consists of four Melanesian countries, Fiji, Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Kanaks of New Caledonia. It’s headquarter is in Port Vila, Vanuatu. The ousting of Mr. Natapei was owed to his loggerheads with several Vanuatu Members of Parliament in the past year and blocking of the Fiji’s Interim Prime minister from taking on the chair of the regional trade bloc of MSG.]

"I am thankful that good sense has prevailed," Commodore Bainimarama said.

Commodore Bainimarama said Mr. Natapei had been the stumbling block to better relationships between the MSG leaders.

While Commodore Bainimarama was earlier non-committal about his stand towards the MSG it is believed this is likely to change now.

Mr. Natapei was ousted in a no-confidence motion in the Vanuatu Parliament on Thursday while he was in Mexico attending the COP 16 Climate Change Conference in the resort town of Cancun.

He has been replaced as Prime Minister by his deputy, Sato Kilman.

Reports from Vanuatu indicated that Mr. Natapei’s ousting was directly linked to his refusal to hand over the MSG Chairmanship to Commodore Bainimarama by rescheduling the MSG meeting that was to have been held in Fiji early this year, thus blocking Fiji’s Prime Minister from taking over the chairmanship.

The next MSG meeting will now be held in the Solomon Islands on December 15, where reconciliation on the issue of chairmanship between Natapei, Bainimarama and Solomon Prime Minister is to take place.

But Commodore Bainimarama will not attend the reconciliation meeting, sending his Foreign Affairs Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola instead.

Earlier in the day Commodore Bainimarama said he had yet to be officially informed of Mr. Natapei’s ousting.

"I received a text this morning about the political situation in Vanuatu but nothing official about the MSG Chairmanship as yet." Bainimarama said.

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