Report by – Vijay Narayan in Nadi, Fiji
Unity and solidarity – not isolation – is the message coming through from the Engaging with the Pacific meeting in Nadi this week.
Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama has revealed that he believes the Pacific Islands Forum has wrongly used its influence to bar Fiji from top level participation in a major forum.
As Commodore Bainimarama called for unity among the Pacific island countries to assist small island developing states while opening the meeting yesterday, he said the Forum policy was no longer sustainable.
Bainimarama said it was time for Fiji to be accorded full participation in the Pacific branch of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group.
He said some neighbouring countries were now beginning to realise what others had known for a long time – that Fiji’s stated objectives were not just words, they were commitments that the government had been steadily meeting since its first day in office.
Commodore Bainimarama said this was a great moment in Fiji’s history as it was building a fully inclusive and democratic society.
He highlighted the massive voter registration drive and the constitution consultations underway.
Road map principles
Commodore Bainimarama said the principles that guided Fiji’s road map were a secular state, a common national identity, the removal of systematic corruption, an independent judiciary, elimination of discrimination, good and transparent governance, social justice, one person one vote one value, the elimination of ethnic voting, proportional representation and a voting age of 18.
He said these principles were unassailable.
Top leaders and senior officials from the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, French Polynesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu were attending the meeting. Officials from Kazakstan and Kosovo were also present.
This meeting is being held ahead of the Pacific Islands Leaders Forum which will be held in Cook Islands next week.
Fiji will not be part of that Forum as it remains suspended because of its military-backed regime.
Meanwhile, the Cook Islands Foreign Ministry’s Danny Williams said it was clear that Fiji was on its path to democracy in 2014.
The meeting ends today.
Vijay Narayan is news director of Communications Fiji Ltd.