Pacific Scoop

Betrayal? Get real, PNG’s Meg Taylor is the best choice for the Forum

Dame Meg Taylor

Dame Meg Taylor … “respected international public servant and diplomat who has, not only Papua New Guinea, but the Pacific Islands at heart.” Image: Forum Secretariat

Papua New Guinea has been accused in the Fiji Sun of “betraying” Fiji by reneging on support for Kaliopate Tavola, the Fijian candidate, for what many consider the top regional job – Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat. Instead, former World Bank official Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea became the first woman chosen to take on the post. Here is a Solomon Islands academic’s view.

Pacific Scoop:
Comment – By Tarcisius Kabutaulaka

An article, which appeared on the front page of the Fiji Sun, accusing Papua New Guinea of “betrayal” , is an interesting and insightful reaction to the election of Dame Meg Taylor as the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS).

Here are a couple of observations: First, while the piece is presented as “news” and carried on the Fiji Sun’s front page, it is actually not “news”.

It is an opinion piece – journalist Nemani Delaibatiki’s opinion.
Perhaps, it might reflect a dominant opinion among Fiji officials. But, there was no official statement from the Fiji government expressing this.

Delaibatiki has taken upon himself to represent Fiji, or, someone in the echelons of power in the Fiji government.

Second, Fiji is suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF). I am therefore surprised that they field a candidate for the head of the PIF Secretariat and expect him to win.

I have a lot of respect for Kaliopate Tavola. He is a wonderful person and a great public servant and diplomat who has contributed enormously to Fiji and the region.

Not right time
But, this is not the time to field his name as a candidate for this top regional position. Fiji should have waited until its suspension is lifted.

Third, while the MSG might have agreed to a candidate, the MSG as an institution is, technically, not a member of the PIF. It is the individual countries that are members.

Papua New Guinea therefore has the sovereign right to field a PNG candidate, rather than an MSG candidate.

Fourth, yes, this could potentially cause tensions and splits in the MSG, but Fiji has more to lose from leaving the MSG. Papua New Guinea investments in Fiji are worth millions (possibly billions) of dollar. This includes – but not restricted to – the Lamana Development Company Ltd. investments with the Grand Pacific Hotel, the Mineral Resources Development Company (MRDC) investments in the Pearl South Pacific (Fiji) hotel at the Pacific Habour, and Bank South Pacific (BSP).

Of course, these are private business investments. But, the MSG has greased these investments.

Papua New Guinea is also a huge market for Fiji products like corned beef. PNG has a population of more than 7 million people. That’s about 75 percent of the total Pacific Islands population, providing a major market – both potential and real.

Fifth, when Australia and New Zealand abandoned Fiji, it was PNG that rallied the MSG to support Fiji. It backed that by giving Fiji US$10 million (25 million kina) to support its preparation for the planned September elections.

Election aid
Papua New Guinea promises to give Fiji another US$10 million in 2015, following the elections.

Sixth, the call for PNG to “clean up its own backyard first” is amusing, especially coming from a country that has had a string of coups since 1987.

Yes, Papua New Guinea has a lot of social, governance and economic challenges. They are bigger because PNG is a bigger and socially complex country. But, it should be noted that a lot of other Pacific Island countries have lots of challenges as well.

Fiji’s governance challenges are well known. All these aside, and with due respect to the other candidates who contested for the head of the PIF Secretariat, I think Dame Meg Taylor was the right choice.

And for the record, Dame Taylor is not just any “former World Bank employee”. She is a respected international public servant and diplomat who has, not only Papua New Guinea, but the Pacific Islands at heart.

She is a very capable person who would have fared well as a candidate to head the PIF Secretariat even if PNG hadn’t given development assistance to Pacific Island countries.

I look forward to a vibrant and progressive PIF Secretariat. It is in dire need for a good boost.

Tarcisius Kabutaulaka is an associate professor in the Centre for Pacific Island Studies at the University of Hawai’i. He is a Solomon Islander and this is a personal view circulated among colleagues. Pacific Scoop publishes this with his permission.

Backstabbed: PNG betrays Fiji, MSG, and derails agreement to back Tavola for top regional job

TVNZ’s Barbara Dreaver sums up the 2014 Pacific Islands Forum


  1. Matilda Moko, 6. August 2014, 15:07

    Some background for Fiji Sun’s journalist -Nemani Delaibatiki to consider also if its his aim to prod his article with that tone.

    PNG Post Courier 5th August 2014 :

    “Article in Fiji Sun newspaper irks PNG Minister”

    Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration Rimbink Pato has lashed out on article that appeated in the Fiji Sun newspaper. Mr Pato was concerned about comments made about the selection of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General.
    “I was concerned to read an article in the Fiji Sun on 04 August 2014 relating to the selection of the new Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
    “It is important to be aware of the facts when making claims in the media as inaccurate assertions can undermine relations between friends.”
    He said Dame Meg Taylor was proposed by Papua New Guinea as a candidate for the post of Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.
    This nomination was presented with the knowledge of all forum nations, including Melanesian Spearhead Group members, and relevant discussions were held between Leaders and Ministers.
    He said while Fiji did nominate a candidate, this application was not successful due to technical irregularities in the application, compounded by the fact that Fiji is currently suspended from the Forum.“It should be pointed out that after the Micronesian candidate withdrew, the two contenders for the position were from the Melanesian countries of the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea.“In order to ensure transparency, PM O’Neill and PM Darcy Lilo of the Solomon Islands did not participate in the deliberation and decision that resulted in the selection of Dame Meg Taylor.”
    The relationship between Papua New Guinea and Fiji is strong and deep, with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill going to significant lengths to maintain engagement with Fiji during recent regional discord.
    “I would hope the people of the people of Fiji are aware of the strength of friendship that we share through government, business and cultural exchange,” Mr Pato said

  2. Honiara Taiyo, 6. August 2014, 18:34

    Grow up Fiji!

    Baby crying over a regional position with pride being hurt, and simmering self-egoism, jealously and self-pity – thus finding excuses to slander another supreme and brother country (PNG)’s candidate demonstrates Fiji’s childlikeness, kinder garden postulations, hence lowered regional status!

    PNG is a strategic regional leader and she will decide who will best serve her interests and the region!

    Fiji should worry about their coming elections and who will be the next PM? Or if not Bainimarama, worry about the implications (next coup?)?

    Time to grow up Fiji! And be considerate of the other hand that supports you!

    Honiara Taiyo

  3. CROM, 7. August 2014, 1:23

    Well articulated. Dame Meg is the right choice.

  4. David Bello, 7. August 2014, 11:23

    Thanks to my wantok Tara for that objective view. It’s all water under the bridge now so let’s move on and get things moving/done for the region.

    David Bello

  5. Ephraim Toirima, 7. August 2014, 12:52

    A single opinion doesnt represent the whole of Fiji. Why was this even published on the the front page of the Fiji Sun?. The editors knew very well the damage it can do to PNG-Fiji relations. Way to low for one of the Pacific’s most respected newspapers.

  6. Deborah Telek, 7. August 2014, 17:13

    Thank you for this balanced piece from Tarcisius Kabutaulaka. A pity that the editors of Fiji Sun chose to give that article the prominence they did.

  7. Ms Afu Billy, 7. August 2014, 21:41

    Tarcisius Tara’s comments in support of Dame Meg’s appointment as Head of the PIFS are to be commended. His comments are factual and provides a great insight into PNG’s huge assistance to Fiji and also to who Dame Meg is. Sorry Fiji but the other Pacific Islands have ‘grown’ and Fijian’s don’t have to take up the leading positions all the time. It’s time Fiji provides more support to their growth rather than portraying a ‘bad loser’ picture to the rest of the region. Dame Meg is not just any former World Bank employee, she is a lady of respect, integrity, and high calibre and well respected in the Melanesian, Pacific and the international communities. I have great respect also for Kaliopate Tavola, however comments such as the ones made by this Fijian writer are out of place, insensitive, unprofessional and does not do justice to Mr Tavola or Fiji as a country for that matter. From the Solomon Islands women, we want to say a big ‘CONGRATULATIONS’ to Dame Meg Taylor for being the first Pacific woman, and a Melanesian woman, to take up this high regional position.

  8. PNG Facts, 7. August 2014, 23:17

    Fiji should not complain. PNG has done alot to Fiji. More PNG investors are heading to Fiji and yet, Fiji thinks, PNG is betraying her. Work up Fiji. Think outside the box.

  9. Kambrip Wane - port moresby, PNG, 7. August 2014, 23:40

    The Forum Leaders know that Fiji has created a rival Organisation called “Pacific Islands Development Forum” and they know Fiji’s ulterior motive – to weaken the Forum Secretariat or even kill it.
    Forum Leaders will not tolerate Fiji dismantling our premier regional Organisation.
    Nominating Amb Tavola is part of that plot. Am surprised that Amb Tavola is even allowing himself to be used as a tool to advance Fiji’s ill-conceived plot against the Forum Secretariat.
    I hope the the smart Fijians wantoks will know the game their government is playing and not fall into intelligently crafted arguments to hide the real reason for the outburst published in the media.
    Congratulations to the Forum members for appointing Amb Meg Taylor as the next SG. She will surely deliver to the expectation of member countries, including Fiji.
    Kambrip Wane for MSG and Pacific Solidarity.

  10. PNG Hunters, 8. August 2014, 17:16

    PNG has done to more to Fiji. What has Fiji done to PNG? Fiji accept and move on.