Tuesday, 19 August 2008 2:09 AM

Fiji Will Not Attend Forum Summit

Fiji has announced that it will not be represented at the next Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting blaming New Zealand for the decision.

According to Fiji Times Online, Fiji's interim government was retaliating to New Zealand's 'decision not to allow the Fiji delegation access to the Forum meeting, namely the bi-lateral talks that will be held in Auckland'.

Interim leader, Commodore Bainimarama said that a "part of the Niue forum meeting, the bi-lateral meetings will be held in Auckland, New Zealand but the members of the Fiji delegation are being denied the opportunity to participate in those meetings and these meetings are integral to the Forum meeting".

However, New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, said that Bainimarama was looking for an excuse not to attend the summit saying that 'New Zealand had given Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama no excuse for avoiding fronting up to Pacific leaders about plans to return Fiji to democracy'.

New Zealand, along with Australia, had imposed travel bans on members of Fiji's interim government following the 2006 military coup and the bans will only be lifted once Fiji has returned to democratic rule. However, New Zealand had allowed members of the Fiji delegation to transit through New Zealand for the Forum Leaders meeting which is to be held in Niue.

'"I think it speaks volumes if they are not prepared to come and be accountable to forum leaders, but obviously we are going to await formal advice as to whether they are coming or not," said Prime Minister Clark.

The Acting Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Feleti Teo, has said that 'Pacific Island Forum member countries will be disappointed if Fiji does not turn up', saying that 'if Commodore Bainimarama failed to be at the table to respond to any comments or queries regarding his failed promises to return to election next March there would be an overwhelming sense of disappointment among the leaders'.

Meanwhile, Palau has announced that it will not be attending the summit 'due to the unresolved forum issue on the situation in Fiji', according to the Marianas Variety.
Palau's President Remengesau said that 'Fiji's Interim Prime Minister Frank Bainarama has not made clear to the forum the conduct of the elections in Fiji' and the 'other pressing issues that the forum need to discuss are being pushed aside due to the amount of time the leaders put in to Fiji's situation'. He added that 'Bainimarama continues to sit in the forum continuing to make promises'.

In the meantime, according to The Australian, Niue, the host of the summit, hopes journalists will focus on more than just Fiji in their coverage of the regional leaders' meeting.

The island nation will host more than 200 government officials and heads of governments who will meet in the capital, Alofi, according to Fiji Times Online, and New Zealand will be assisting by 'providing police and defence officials to assist with security and catering purposes'.