March 10, 2012

Radio Australia: Samoa's Prime Minister lashes out at Commodore Bainimarama

Updated 8 March 2012, 15:36 AEST

Samoa's Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has lashed out at Fiji interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama for calling him a puppet of Australia and New Zealand.

In a recent interview with Sky News, Frank Bainimarama says Tuilaepa's criticisms of his military regime are an example of chequebook diplomacy.

Pacific Beat asked Prime Minister Tuilaepa for his reaction and this is what he had to say.

Presenter: Geraldine Coutts

Speaker: Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi of Samoa

TUILAEPA: When I am asked by the media on my frank opinions on what Bainimarama is doing to Fiji, it is incumbent on me to respond and to state what I feel, not what anybody tells me to say. But to have a problem next door to Samoa is a most outrageous thing to happen in the Pacific, to have a dictator that runs a country at the point of the gun, this is un-Pacific. For any Pacific leader it is important to speak out. We do not need a dictator in our midst. It destroys the image of the Pacific as a region where peace-loving people live, where they enjoy the practice of the rule of law and also to live under properly elected governments. I have to state that I sat in the meeting of the Forum in Tonga where I had the first instance to hear Bainimarama himself make commitments to the leaders of the Pacific that elections in Fiji would be held in 2010, only to hear him again renege on that promise made to the leaders of the Pacific Forum. What can I say of a kind of leader that comes and promises the Forum leaders, and then in the next few hours reneges on that promise? I am sorry to say that we do not need the likes of Bainimarama in the Pacific.

COUTTS: Well in that same interview Prime Minister it was claimed by Commodore Bainimarama, Pacific Island countries have accepted the changes taking shape in Fiji the country, we all have to find where this is going and why they are making these opposing remarks about Fiji is because they're getting their funds from Australia and New Zealand chequebook diplomacy. How would you respond to that?

TUILAEPA: Well assistance and also development cooperation from Australian and New Zealand, China, Japan, preceded Bainimarama.

COUTTS: And it can be said that Australia and New Zealand could still continue to fund through AusAid and New Zealand aid Fiji as well?

TUILAEPA: Well there are guidelines that ought to be followed and those guidelines are the kind of guidelines that every donor country must expect the recipient countries to follow, because taxpayers monies that are given out to help other countries must be used wisely, and that they should be under clear guidelines of good governance, principles of accountability and transparency. These rules are very simple for every country to follow. And when I speak of the Pacific countries in the region I am speaking in terms of a member of the Pacific Leaders Forum.

COUTTS: And the assistance you're getting you would deny could be accurately described as chequebook diplomacy?

TUILAEPA: Well I don't contribute to that kind of rubbish.

COUTTS: Now it's also been seen that Fiji now that they say that Australia and New Zealand are bullying Fiji and the assistance that they used to enjoy isn't quite there anymore, that they're looking wider, they're going to China, India and Russia. Do you think that's an issue for the Pacific?

TUILAEPA: That is not an issue, even China and Russia also have similar guidelines for their assistance. Those countries and governments are also basing their own policies on development assistance on the basis of good governance, principles of accountability and transparency.

COUTTS: It'd be fair to say that you haven't spoken directly with Commodore Bainimarama for some time now then?

TUILAEPA: Well we did speak to each other at a meeting, I think this was at Doha at one of the meetings we both attended of the international community.

COUTTS: And what did you discuss, was it a cordial conversation?

TUILAEPA: Well it was a very cordial conversation. We met at a place where we exercise in the morning. You see we also both exercise.

COUTTS: Now with Samoa and the Fiji relationship, do you think that that can be repaired and be part of the Pacific community?

TUILAEPA: Well there is nothing wrong with our relationship, the only thing wrong is Bainimarama.

COUTTS: Because he needs to have elections

TUILAEPA: No we need leaders that are properly elected through the usual democratic processes. I have nothing against the Fijian people, I have often said in the past that Fiji is one country with the most resources in terms of human capability, people who are very well educated, who have been dismissed from their jobs because of the brutality that goes with dictatorships.

COUTTS: This is the final question Prime Minister, but do you think that the elections will be held in 2014?

TUILAEPA: I can never, never believe anything that Bainimarama promises, he is a liar.

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