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Temaru, other Pacific leaders back Fiji’s return from cold

Oscar Temaru

French Polynesian leader Oscar Temaru … keen to see Fiji back in the Pacific Islands Forum. Image: Cook Islands News

Pacific Scoop:
Report – By Henry Yamo on Rarotonga

French Polynesian President Oscar Temaru backs Fiji’s return to the Pacific Islands Forum in any discussion about its suspension by regional leaders in the near future.

“The Pacific leaders are hopeful that in the very close future Fiji will be back again because all countries in the Pacific are linked and no one should be expelled from this ocean,” he said.

Temaru said the suspended status of Fiji from the Forum and other organisations was a problem that would not last forever. Solutions would be found to include the country again.

2012 PIF logoSpeaking of a recent visit to Fiji, he said the process observed by the country to ensure a democratically elected government in 2014 was “excellent” – so it was hoped the Bainimarama regime would be strongly committed to the deadline.

Similar feelings were earlier expressed by the Cook Islands and other Pacific leaders, although it is has not been fully discussed during the leaders meeting.

The Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Willie Telavi said: “Personally, I do encourage Fiji to rejoin our Forum. I am glad to see the progress made by Fiji in progressing themselves to come to the 2014 elections and I congratulate Fiji for doing that.

“We would like to see Fiji coming back to the Forum but we have to see what the outcome of the meeting is like in the next few days,” he said.

Prolonged absence
Similar feelings were also expressed by the Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister, Ham Lini, who said it was better to accept Fiji back into the Forum because its prolonged absence would cause problems for some Pacific countries.

However, he said Vanuatu would support Fiji’s move to have a constitutionally elected government by 2014 and Fiji needed to commit to that date.

The PNG Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, said that although Fiji was wanted back in the Forum, the onus was on Bainimarama to ensure a democratically elected government was in place by 2014.

He said the absence of Fiji among ACP Pacific leaders was raised earlier this month.

However, the leaders understood that the present Forum could not discuss the issue at length.

The leaders agreed to convene a special meeting later in the year to discuss Fiji’s possible return to the Pacific ACP fold.

In support of this, the PNG government volunteered to host the ACP meeting in Port Moresby when a date is set.

Prime Minister O’Neill said: “Because Fiji has not been suspended from the membership of the ACP group, we are trying to consider the application by Fiji to participate actively in all the PACP programmes.”

Specific request
“ACP is a different organisation and because the Forum had already established a position on Fiji’s case, we need to consider the specific request,” he said.

“That is why Papua New Guinea has offered to host that meeting for the heads of government and officials at a cost to Papua New Guinea.”

He said the PNG government was undertaking this commitment to assist its Pacific and Melanesian friends and neighbour to get back on track in terms of reengagement with Fiji in the forum.

O’Neill said if that meeting decided that Fiji needed to be reinstated to the ACP Pacific leaders meeting, we see no reason why the PM for Fiji cannot attend.

However, he pointed out that Fiji would not be invited to the meeting.

The invitation would be extended to Fiji after the meeting was concluded.

Henry Yamo is a post graduate student and journalist at AUT University reporting for the Pacific Media Centre and Cook Islands News.

Cook Islands News