Fiji, and more particularly the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama are telling New Zealand and Australia to get stuffed.
Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama didn’t show his face at the Pacific Islands Forum but that didn’t stop him stealing the show.
There’s one hell of a power struggle going on in the Pacific and it’s never more evident than when the leaders all gather in one place for the annual leader’s retreat.
Last year in Papua New Guinea that strong-arming was clear when Prime Minister John Key and then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott turned up to the post-forum press conference – a media event usually fronted by smaller Pacific nations.
Key and Abbott were there to keep a lid on the growing tensions between them and smaller nations over the lacklustre targets being set heading into the Paris climate change conference only a few months later.
Nobody was more surprised than the Kiwi and Aussie media contingent when they waltzed in and the heat coming off then Kiribati President Anote Tong – the Pacific poster boy for climate change – raised the temperature in the room ten-fold.
This year that power play has continued with some smaller Pacific nations not wanting French Polynesia and New Caledonia to join the forum.
Key and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull were supportive of the bid and after years of trying, the French finally got their foot in the door this year.This is an opportunity for France to join the big boys table and exert some power in the region as well.
It is this sort of meddling that gets Key and Turnbull in trouble with the Fijian PM. He’s not having a bar of it.
The biggest threat to all of this is Bainimarama and he’s been beavering away forming a sub-group within the Pacific as he tries to claw back some of the control – he’s also trying to keep Samoa at bay as they continually push for a greater presence.
So what better timing for Bainimarama than the night before the leader’s retreat – which he never planned to turn up at – to orchestrate a Cabinet reshuffle that saw his foreign minister in Pohnpei stripped of the role while he’s sat at the same table as Key and Turnbull.
Ratu Inoke Kubuabola is seen as a threat by Bainimarama and he knew he had to cut off his oxygen.
He then proceeded to start arresting Opposition MPs letting it rain chaos in Fiji at the exact same time the leaders were meeting in Pohnpei.
Nice attempt at smearing Fiji. The simple fact is that the three who were arrested broke the law…one that has been in existence for quite some time. Rabuka is a ratbag, he conducted two coups himself and achieved little or nothing other than top cement in place a constitution that caused the 2006 coup and 2007 revolution. For him to be attending an illegal meeting to discuss the constitution of Fiji is somewhat ironic. There is much talk in the NZ media about Rabuka being an MP…he is not…he is the leader of SODELPA outside of parliament after rinsing Mrs. Ro Temumu Kepa
What better way to steal the headlines from what is going on at the forum table than throw a match on the fire in your own country.
Bainimarama is never going to come back to the forum table but that’s not going to stop him going in for the kill – only problem is he now has the French to contend with as well.
There is no match or even a fire. Most Fijian’s think Rabuka is a ratbag. Frank Bainimarama was elected in a landslide and by all accounts, he will continue to be elected in a landslide as Fijian’s enjoy a resurgent economy, better employment opportunities, and free education.
The public statements from Australian High Commissioner Maggie “on the hill” Twomey and the constant meddling by NZs High Commissioner Mark Ramsden, in local affairs, just keep the anti-NZ and anti-Australian sentiment bubbling along. Then when you have Murray McCully issuing statements criticising Fijian laws you really wonder if NZ wants a meaningful relationship with Fiji at all. Fijians for their part laugh at New Zealand’s own laws, particularly our catch and release programme for criminals.
NZ and Australia need to stop sticking their noses into Fijian domestic politics.