18 Dec 2006

Former chair of Pacific Islands Forum may retake position after Fiji coup

2:38 pm on 18 December 2006

The Pacific Islands Forum is proposing to replace the current chair, Fiji's deposed prime minister, Laisenia Qarase, with the former chair, Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Michael Somare.

The Forum Secretariat has been consulting the 16 members as to what stance to take over the coup and in an official statement advised that the position of Fiji in the Forum is now under consideration.

A deputy-secretary general of the Forum Secretariat, Iosefa Maiava, would not comment on whether that could include Fiji being suspended or expelled but he says its head of government is no longer able to fulfill his role as chair.

Mr Maiava says a proposal is circulating among Forum members that the previous chair, Sir Michael, take over.

"The proposal is to revert back to the last Forum chair on an interim basis until either things go back to normal in terms of having a democratic re-elected head of government in Fiji or when the leaders meet next year and review the situation and presumably make another decision if they see it necessary to do so."

Mr Maiava says a proposal to send a Forum eminent persons' group to Fiji prior to the end of the year has been rejected but it's hoped a mission will be accepted in the new year.

He says the group, which is expected to comprise people from Australia, Vanuatu, Samoa and Papua New Guinea, wants to hold discussions on how to restore democracy to Fiji.