21 Jan 2009

PNG seeks Fiji explanation over latest Forum snub

4:00 pm on 21 January 2009

Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Michael Somare, has written a letter to Fiji's interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, over Fiji's announcement that it won't attend next Tuesday's special Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting.

The meeting in PNG had been called to discuss the Fiji political situation following the Fiji interim regime's broken promises on a timetable to restore democracy following its December 2006 coup.

Sir Michael says he has written to the Commodore and is awaiting clarification.

He says everybody is concerned and he doesn't want to see Fiji being kicked out of the Commonwealth or out of Pacifc Islands Forum.

Commodore Bainimarama says he needs to stay home to help with the aftermath of last week's flooding calamity and therefore wants the meeting to be deferred to a later date.

Last year, he boycotted the Niue Forum summit amid disagreements over New Zealand's visa policies towards those linked to the 2006 military coup.

An academic says diplomacy is now key to move Fiji forward after its withdrawal from the Forum summit next week.

The last Forum summit in Niue threatened Fiji with the possible suspension of its membership, but a Research Fellow at the Australian National University, Jon Fraenkel, says this should not be on the agenda.

"It's understandable that Pacific Island countries decided to make that threat. But that's unwise, because it involves isolating Fiji further and some of the problems that have arisen over the last six months or so have arisen because of a greater degree of isolation."

Jon Fraenkel says the forum should instead apply more subtle pressure.