APIA: 26 Feb 2008: Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has questioned what Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama meant by being “un-Pacific” in recent comments which the Commodore also said Samoas Prime Ministers strong criticisms were ‘unprofessional’. In a statement released today, Tuilaepa questioned what the Commodore meant by “un-Pacific” particularly in view of the fact that the Commodore:
- Overthrew at the point of the gun his elected government and sent into limbo the Parliament of his country,
- Had no hesitation in describing the Forum as dominated by New Zealand and Australia; giving no credence to the ability of the other Forum leaders to think for themselves;
- Had no qualms in breaking an undertaking he personally made to the Leaders at the Tonga Forum that Fiji would hold elections by March this year;
- Did not bother to attend the Forum Leaders meeting in Niue knowing very well that Fiji was high on the agenda and the Leaders would like to hear from him and;
- Did not bother to attend the Special Leaders Retreat in Port Moresby to discuss Fiji even with the great diplomatic effort by the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea to encourage him to attend; instead the Commodore sent his interim attorney general to meet the Pacific leaders.”
In Prime Minister Tuilaepa’s view, Commodore Bainimarama has shown little respect towards the Pacific leaders and his behaviour and actions could hardly be described
as the ‘Pacific Way’. The Commodore should therefore not be so quick in ‘crying foul’.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa said that nothing that has happened so far has changed his view that Commodore Bainimarama has no intention of holding elections and returning Fiji to democratic rule.
Samoa’s Prime Minister who is also Samoa’s Foreign Minister was part of the Ministerial Contact Group that visited Fiji for consultations with the Interim government ahead of the Niue Forum meeting. Asked point blank by the Ministerial Group, the Interim government did not have any idea of a timeframe. In the contact group’s visit to Fiji’s Electoral Commission it was quickly evident that there was no genuine attempt being made to prepare and organize an election. This state of affairs has since been reinforced in video footage taken by the staff of the Commission itself.
This is a depressing situation according to Prime Minister Tuilaepa who referred to his own experience when he was a public servant and worked with highly qualified and very competent officers of Fiji’s civil service. Tuilaepa has no doubt that Fiji has many skilled and dedicated people inside and outside the civil service who would be able to easily organize and hold the elections as well as provide support for all other institutions of government in Fiji if they were only given the chance and the resources. Unfortunately everything hinges on Commodore Bainimarama and whether he is prepared to trust his people, and how genuine he is to do the right thing for his country by returning to the barracks and allowing Fiji to return to a democratically elected government.
Tuilaepa said that given the important role of religion in Pacific society he felt sure that the church leaders of Fiji have good advice to offer if the Interim Prime Minister was willing to listen. Similarly, former commanders of Fiji’s Military who served their country from the barracks would also have good advice to offer Commodor Bainimarama.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa feels strongly that if Commodore Bainimarama’s allows elections to be held within this year as required by the Forum, returns the military to the barracks and makes it firmly answerable to the elected government, the Commodore will recover much of his lost credibility and may still be remembered well by the people of Fiji and the region.
Prime Minister Tuilaepa indicated that as he has made clear his views and the message he wanted to send to Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama, he did not intend to say anything further on the issue. Tuilaepa said that he would like to think that if he should meet the Commodore when they are both retired and all of this is in the past that Bainimarama would thank him for his direct and frank advice.