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August 04
11:17 2014

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

nemani delaibatiki

Papua New Guinea reneged on its commitment to support Kaliopate Tavola, the Fijian candidate, for what many consider the top regional job.
After saying yes to Fiji, Solomons and Vanuatu in a show of MSG solidarity, PNG went on to put up its own candidate, Dame Meg Taylor, a former World Bank employee, for the Secretary-General of the Pacific Islands Forum.
Details of PNG’s wheeling and dealing behind the scenes have emerged after Dame Taylor won the vote in the PIF meeting in Palau last week.
PNG was able to secure the crucial votes by offering a 500 million kina (F$379.2 million) inducement to help cash-strapped small island states.
In December last year, MSG foreign ministers met in Port Vila, Vanuatu. They agreed to put up Mr Tavola as MSG candidate for PIF Secretary-General. The MSG was set up to lobby for interests common to the group. The members were unanimous in their opinion that Mr Tavola was the best candidate because of his wide experience in the region and outside.
The motion to select Mr Tavola was moved by then Vanuatu Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Edward Natapei and supported by Solomons and PNG.
After the Vanuatu meeting, Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama wrote to PNG Prime Minister Peter O’Neill, Solomons Prime Minister Darcy Lilo and Vanuatu Prime Minister Moana Carcases in January this year thanking them for supporting Mr Tavola.
In February and March, rumblings were heard that Solomons and PNG were on the move to put up their own candidates. Cracks in the MSG solidarity began to appear.
PNG, buoyed by its new-found kina power, forged ahead with its chequebook diplomacy. Its goal is to establish itself as a leader and power broker.
ALSO READ: PNG needs to clean up its own backyard first >P20 Editorial

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