23 Apr 2015

Samoa-Fiji slanging match risks obscuring Pacific-wide issue

4:43 am on 23 April 2015

Observers say an important regional issue risks being obscured by the latest trading of insults between the prime ministers of Fiji and Samoa.

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Pacific Islands Forum flags Photo: RNZ

Fiji's Frank Bainimarama said his Samoan counterpart was a yapping lapdog and always on the attack.

Earlier Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi said all the former military chief did was play drums and train and he doesn't understand international relations.

The leaders are at odds over Fiji's demands for changes to the make-up of the Pacific Islands Forum and Mr Bainimarama's refusal to attend this year unless Australia and New Zealand, as the main funders, leave.

Jenny Hayward-Jones of the Australian think-tank, the Lowy Institute, says there has also been tension between the Fijian Prime Minister and the Papua New Guinean leader Peter O'Neill.

"I think this goes to a greater problem that all the countries of the Forum want Fiji back in the Forum. Everyone wants to talk to Fiji but Bainimarama's personality and his personal antipathy with some of the leaders is preventing a better and more substantive discussion about the benefits to Fiji returning to the Forum."

Jenny Hayward-Jones says it will not be easy for Mr Bainimarama to make his case but he does hold the trump card by refusing to attend the Forum.

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