Samoa PM Derides Fiji’s Bainimarama Over Forum Stance

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Tuilaepa: Forum depends on funds from Australia, NZ not Fiji

By Mata’afa Keni Lesa

APIA, Samoa (Samoa Observer, April 19, 2015) – Fijian Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, is back on Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi’s hit list.

This time, Bainimarama has upset Prime Minister Tuilaepa by calling for the removal of New Zealand and Australia from the Pacific Islands Forum.

Asked for a comment, Tuilaepa did not hold back.

"Bainimarama’s issue is insignificant," he said. "Remember all the man did was to play the drums (in the military) and train.

"So he doesn't understand these things. He is only new and he is still learning about matters of international relations."

Tuilaepa went on to remind that Bainiamarama’s area of speciality is to "play the drum and yell left, right, stop!"

The Prime Minister was responding to repeated calls from Bainimarama to have New Zealand and Australia removed from the Forum.

If this does not happen, he wants China to be included in the group.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, To’osavili John Key, rejected the call, saying it is a joke.

"A Pacific Forum without Australia and New Zealand would be an interesting thing I suppose, in that those leaders would be able to talk about things," To’osavili told the media.

"But exactly where would they get the money to do anything, and the answer is nowhere."

Tuilaepa agrees with To’osavili.

He reminded that many years ago, a body known as the South Pacific Commission involved only Samoa, Fiji and Tonga. New Zealand and Australia, he said, were brought in to fund the plans of the Forum.

Fast forward to today, the Forum now has 16 members.

"The Forum is made up of fourteen very poor nations and then these two nations who fund the plans by these fourteen very poor nations," Tuilaepa said.

"Now John Key is right. He has hit the mark because that’s why New Zealand and Australia came in, they fund our stuff." But Bainimarama has rejected To‘osavili’s comments, accusing him of ‘dangling funds’ over the Forum.

"They only see our relationship is to do with funding and that is their outlook on what our relationship is in the Forum, to dangle funding in front of us," Bainimarama told Radio Tarana. "Obviously that is a poor view of what our relationship should be like."

Tuilaepa disagrees. "He’s perhaps forgotten that the Forum relies on funding," he said.

"It’s not a body where you talk, talk, talk and go away with air. We talk and implement these plans but we rely on New Zealand and Australia to fund it.

"So you need to talk and be mindful of whether there is enough in your pocket to pay for your plans."

Asked about claims that New Zealand and Australia are too domineering, Tuilaepa said this was far from the truth.

"No, that’s not the case," he said.

"The decisions are made at the Forum. If Fiji doesn't want to join the Forum, so what?

"The Forum is not going to die.

It’s not as if any money comes from Fiji. It’s the money we get from New Zealand and Australia we are using for our stuff."

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