Fiji PM Regrets Not Being Able To Participate In Forum Meeting

Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Bainimarama blames Australia, New Zealand for his absence

By Vuniwaqa Bola-Bari

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Sept. 10, 2015) – Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama is unable to attend the 46th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting because of Australia and New Zealand's refusal to "step back" from the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).

This was clarified in Mr Bainimarama's letter to PNG Prime Minister Peter O'Neill, who was pleased with Fiji's return to PIFS and their representation at the present meeting.

"As you know, our Foreign Minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola is representing Fiji and I have instructed him to do everything possible to help make the event a success," Mr Bainimarama said.

"I regret that I am unable to attend myself because of the refusal of Australia and New Zealand to step back and allow the Pacific Island nations to determine their own futures free from outside interference."

Mr Bainimarama said Fiji had significant differences with Australia over its policies on climate change in particular, which were "clearly not in the interests of the Pacific Small Island Developing States".

"Fiji's position on the PIF is well known and accepted by other island leaders. But while I will be absent from the leaders meeting, we will continue to be engaged with the forum at ministerial and other levels.

"In saying this, I also assure you of our co-operation and support towards your chairmanship and I look forward to working closely with you in addressing the priority issues that behove us as leaders in the region," Mr Bainimarama said.

Meanwhile reported NZ PM John Key saying "no country is more important or less important but Australia and New Zealand are significant funders and we have a special place for certain reasons, not least because Auckland is the largest Pacific city in the world".

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