29 Aug 2007

PNG Prime Minister warns against setting unrealistic timetables for Fiji

9:24 am on 29 August 2007

The prime minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somare, says regional development partners including the Pacific Forum should not impose unrealistic political timetables on Fiji.

The Fiji Times says Sir Michael was replying to claims by the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer, that the interim prime minister. Commodore Bainimarama, would not be welcome at the Forum leaders' summit in Tonga in October.

Sir Michael, who is also chairman of the Forum, says it was regrettable that Mr Downer had assigned himself the role of speaking for and on behalf of the host government Tonga, the Forum chairman and other Forum leaders.

Sir Michael says Pacific island leaders want harmonious relations with Australia because the security, political and economic status of countries in the region is linked.

He warns the Forum risks undermining its ability to influence Fiji's transition to full democracy in ways that are acceptable to islanders if the Forum refuses to acknowledge that Commodore Bainimarama and his interim government are in effective control of Fiji.

Sir Michael says the Forum should recognize the doctrine of necessity and deal with the Fiji government from within the Forum.

He says the region wants Fiji's return to democracy to be not temporary but enduring.