October 08, 2012

Samoan PM denies he has forgiven Fiji

Updated 5 October 2012, 17:39 AEST

Samoa's prime minister is denying claims by the Fiji interim government that he had told them that all was forgiven between them and the relationship between the two nations was back on track.

The coup installed interim government said the conciliatory statement was made by Tuilaepa Sailele at a kava drinking session at the United Nations in New York.

The Samoan leader has been a trenchant critic of the interim government and its leader, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Tuilaepa Sailele tells Bruce Hill he and his government have not changed their policies towards Fiji at all.

Presenter:Bruce Hill

Speaker:Samoa's prime minister, Tuilaepa Sailele

SAILELE: Well, you see, we were there at the United Nations and the Pacific delegations were especially interested in the Pacific hosting the proposed review meetings on climate change, a meeting at the United Nations level and we made a strong bid from the Pacific vis-a-vis bid from the Caribbean and because there were two countries from here.There was a compromise solution and the compromise solution that we agreed with Fiji was that Fiji would host the officials meeting and we will host the plenary of the leaders and with that agreed, Fiji Ambassador invited the delegations that were there at the Pacific to come over and have a kava drink to celebrate the compromise, so we had other delegations as well, the President of Kiribati, the Ambassador from Nauru, representative of Solomons and the representative also of Palau and the Foreign Minister of Papua New Guinea. The Foreign Minister of Fiji was there as well. So we were very pleased that we eventually came to this compromise. It was a subject that was discussed at the level of the forum and the hope was expressed that the Pacific would be promoted strongly to host the meeting and there was this difficulty that had to be resolved and we resolved it with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Fiji over a cup of kava.

HILL: The Fiji interim government have suggested to us that what was said at that meeting by you to the Fijians was that all is forgiven and the relationship is now completely back on an even keel. Is that a fair summation of what happened?

SAILELE: Well, on the basis only of the meeting. We never discuss anything outside of the compromise on the meeting at all.

HILL: So this doesn't really indicate that you've dropped your opposition to the coup-installed military government there and your opposition to that continued rule by Frank Bainimarama. This was just for the purposes of that compromise at the UN?

SAILELE: Oh, just compromise. The situation with respect to the Fiji government proposal to proceed with the general election, I have already stated my position and my position is one of facilitating and enabling the Fijians to proceed. This is the kind of move that the forum leaders have been trying to get from Fiji, although there are still difficulties, for instance, the rejection of ILO delegation, as well as those letters from the appeal judges. These are very, very, very serious events that can raise doubt on the genuine intention of the leader of Fiji and we do hope that they would proceed with their preparations to its rightful conclusion. And I have also expressed my support for the flexible attitude taken by New Zealand and Australia to provide the help with this opening from Fiji. It is only right for us to provide Fiji with the benefit of the doubt that we should be flexible in our approach and hope for the best that they will proceed with these promises of fair election. It must be fair. If that is done, and only after this has taken place, then we can then formally admit back Fiji into the Forum.

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