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Puna says Secretariat will determine if Fiji PM can attend

By Rachel Reeves

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Feb. 22, 2012) - Will Fiji’s military ruler, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, be invited to the Cook Islands?

Prime Minister Henry Puna says the important decision of whether to invite Fiji’s leader, Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama to the August Pacific Leaders Forum in Rarotonga is not the Cook Islands government’s to make.

He was responding to a question from Teenui-Mapumai member of parliament Norman George in the House yesterday.

George had asked, "Is it your intention and the intention of your government to invite Fiji leader and Commodore Bainimarama to the Pacific Forum to be held in August?"

Prime Minister Henry Puna answered that should there be an invitation to Bainimarama, it will come from the Forum Secretariat and not from his government.

"Cook Islands is part of a team and that’s the Pacific Islands Forum team – there has been a team decision made by the team and Cook Islands intends to play as a team.

"It’s difficult for us to anticipate what the situation will be between now and the commencement of the forum. I can tell you the minister of foreign affairs for New Zealand (Murray McCully) was here recently, this last weekend, and I took the opportunity to discuss with him this very sensitive issue.

"In brief, as of now, nothing has changed. Let’s hope that before the forum there may be some changes," Puna said.

George pressed him, asking whether he was suggesting he had changed his mind.

"No, I’m not saying I’m changing my mind, honourable member. Circumstances might change which might warrant a change of mind but until the team decision has been changed, Cook Islands is very much a team player and will continue to be bound by the team rules."

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