Want Fiji Back? Pacific Islands Forum Will Have To Change

The message is clear. Fiji remains firm that it will stay out of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) even though the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have lifted our suspension. Fiji
26 Oct 2014 00:00

The message is clear. Fiji remains firm that it will stay out of the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) even though the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have lifted our suspension.

Fiji will only consider returning if much needed reforms to the PIF and its Suva-based Secretariat are undertaken.

It is an interesting situation. It is fair to say that the Forum needs Fiji far more than Fiji needs this bureaucratic, non-inclusive and increasingly irrelevant body.

All who take pride in Fiji’s independence should commend the firm stand taken by our Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama and his very successful Minister for Foreign Affairs Ratu Inoke Kubuabola.

The shabby and shameful way Fiji and the PM were treated by Australian and New Zealand dominated Forum in recent years is well known.

The failure of some other Pacific Islands leaders to stand up to this at the Forum merely underscored how dominated some are and how they have to dance to Canberra and Wellington’s aid tune. That is why so many of them were also cheering Fiji on, even if only behind closed doors or in other bodies.

Ratu Inoke said Fiji’s position is very clear.

“Fiji is not going back to PIF till some changes and reforms are made in the organisation; for example Australia and New Zealand to move out of PIF,” he said.

He said the two should become development partners like nations such as Japan, China and Korea. They cannot be both members and development partners dictating from inside.

When Fiji was suspended from the Forum in 2009 it was at the behest of Canberra and Wellington. They were supported eagerly from Apia by the self interest of the opportunist and aid dependent Samoan PM Tuilaepa of the long name.

During the period of suspension, Fiji was not isolated. Some of the biggest and most influential nations strengthened their ties with us. Russia’s powerful Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov came here.

Our PM was one of the first invited to Beijing to meet the new Chinese leadership. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono came here. Indian leaders readily met with and hosted our PM and Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

And out of our continuing connectivity with our Pacific Islands neighbours, the Pacific Islands Development Forum (PIDF) was formed.

Mr Bainimarama, as the initiator of this, said the existing regional structure for the past four decades – the Pacific Islands Forum – is for governments only. It had also come to be dominated only by a few. The PIDF from the start was inclusive and Pacific Islands development driven.

Something the Forum this past week totally ignored when lifting its self-declared Fiji “suspension” was addressing the reform conditions set by Fiji to guarantee its return.

It is a fact that Fiji will only return to Forum if these reforms are begun. Anyone who thinks any differently has only to see the way Fiji was unbowed by the years of so-called “smart” sanctions imposed by Canberra and Wellington.Under the Bainimarama Government Fiji has become the first truly independent Pacific Islands nation.

We welcome friendship with all – including Canberra and Wellington. There is an unbreakable people to people friendship between our nations forged on many fields, not just battlefields and rugby fields.

But those in power and the bureaucrats of Canberra and Wellington also need to appreciate that it has to be a friendship of equals. And the Pacific Islands Forum needs to understand that there is no going back to the way things were.



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