Fiji PM Confirms He Will Not Attend Any Forum Meetings

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Bainimarama: Undue influence of Australia, NZ must be addressed

By Reginald Chandar

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, May 6, 2015) – Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama says as Head of Government, he will not participate in any Forum Leaders Meeting until the issue of the undue influence of Australia and New Zealand and their divergence of views is addressed.

He however stated that Fiji will continue to participate in all Forum activities at the public service, technical and ministerial levels and the PIF Secretariat will continue to be headquartered in Fiji.

While launching the first of two meetings to seek the views of our Pacific partners on a draft agreement to institutionalise the Pacific Islands Development Forum, Mr Bainimarama said Australia and New Zealand are not island nations and they believe that they are more development partners such as the European Union, China, India, South Korea, Indonesia and the rest.

"This is not some ill-considered position based on resentment against Australia and New Zealand for their punitive attitude towards our reform programme that produced the first genuine democracy in Fijian history."

"This is not me ‘mouthing off’, as the New Zealand Prime Minister so condescendingly put it."

"But as things stand, we do not see Fiji’s interests reflected in the stance being taken by Australia and New Zealand. And especially on the biggest threat to our security we have ever faced collectively as Pacific Islanders – the rising sea levels caused by climate change."

He said in common with the European Union and a host of other countries, Fiji wants the global community to commit to binding cuts in carbon emissions to reduce the current rate of global warming.

"The scientists say these cuts are vital to prevent the sea level rises that in the near future threaten the very existence of Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands. Plus vast tracts of land in other coastal island nations."

"Yet rather than join us at the forefront of the international campaign to cut carbon emissions, Australia in particular is dragging its feet. So much so that even major carbon emitters are complaining about Australia’s refusal to meet its international obligations."

"Rather than side with us, Australia in particular is siding with what I call the coalition of the selfish. Those industrialised nations which are putting the welfare of their carbon polluting industries and their workers before our welfare and survival as Pacific Islanders."

"We now find ourselves in common cause not with our closest neighbours and traditional friends – those who sit with us in the PIF – but with others such as the member countries of the European Union who also heavily invest in the long-term welfare of our people but stand with us on the issue of climate change."

"The Europeans have proved to be our true allies in this most basic of struggles. And as we see it, Australia and New Zealand have been put to the test on climate change and been found wanting."

"So it should be no surprise that we have formed the view that at the very least, their position as full members of our island nation Forum needs to be questioned, re-examined and redefined. They simply do not represent our interests as we face this critical matter of survival."

"As a matter of fact, the Indian Ocean island nations of the Maldives and Seychelles have far more in common with us in respect of rising sea levels, development hallenges and economic prospects than Australia and New Zealand will ever have."

He clarified that they are not putting forward the PIDF as a competitor for any existing organisation.

"What we are doing is providing a space for everyone to have their opinions heard, which has not been the case with the Pacific Islands Forum. Though I’m pleased to note that the PIF appears to be following our example of opening its doors beyond the strict confines of Government."

"I am not here to force Fiji’s view on anyone. It is for the region as a whole to decide its future and the adequacy of the existing regional framework. But as Fiji sees it, we needed to create a piece of regional furniture that we are all comfortable sitting in and we have. An organisation for Pacific Islanders by Pacific Islanders."

"Free from undue outside influence and existing only to pursue the interests of Pacific Islanders, whoever they are or wherever they live."

"And I want to stress that none of this affects our bilateral relations with the Australians and New Zealanders, who we continue to regard as friends despite our grave disappointment at their stance on climate change."

"In the meantime, Fiji will concentrate its efforts on working with you all to build this wonderful new organisation – the true voice of the Pacific Islands. And a group that, unlike the PIF, is inclusive and embraces countries way beyond our region who nonetheless, want to work with us as genuine partners," he added.

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