September 05, 2012
Tuilaepa makes stand on Fiji, Forum integrity
Pacific Island leaders with US Secretary of State Ms Hillary Clinton after their breakfast at Trader Jack’s restaurant
Unelected Fiji regime leader Frank Bainimarama could very well had made his way back to the Pacific ACP leaders table if it wasn’t for a strong stand by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi at this week’s Pacific African-Caribbean-Pacific (PACP) meeting, on the sidelines of the Pacific leaders’ forum here in Rarotonga.
A paper endorsed earlier this year by Pacific Island trade ministers was tabled in the meeting with a recommendation to allow Fiji representation at all PACP levels – including the political level.
The recommendation for Fiji participation was supported by the leaders of Tuvalu, Tonga, Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea who spoke on the matter.
However, Prime Minister Tuilaepa reminded the leaders that the Forum had already made a decision on Fiji pointing to its suspension from the Forum in 2009.
“In Tonga in 2007, we sat at this Forum and listened to Colonel Bainimarama tell us that he was going to hold elections the following year. I was one of those leaders who foolishly believed him.
“The Forum had had made a decision on Fiji in regards to its strong position on the democracy, good governance and the rule of law. The Forum has to maintain the integrity of its decision.”
“May I also remind you that this is a Pacific Islands Forum gathering and not an ACP affair.”
Tuilaepa’s position was strongly supported by Niue premier Toke Talagi.
As a compromise, Tuilaepa suggested a separate PACP meeting in Brussels to discuss the issue further.
The Forum leaders agreed, but instead of Brussels, the PACP meeting will convene in Port Moresby later this year.
Tuilaepa also reminded the leaders of their obligation to make political decisions and not pass it on to officials. He pointed to the meeting in Nukualofa where this particular recommendation was on Fiji. Only six trade ministers, he said, turned up and the rest was represented by senior public servants.
“Technical officials are responsible for carrying out the wishes of the ministers. They are not a part of the political decision- making. That’s entirely the exclusive of political leaders.”