Pacific Affairs: McKinnon Positions Himself As Clark Bainimarama Mediator
By Selwyn Manning – reporting from Tonga.
Commonwealth secretary general Don McKinnon has positioned to be mediator committed to resolving a scrap between New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark and Fiji interim Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama.
McKinnon confirmed on Monday in Tonga that his office had invited Commodore Bainimarama to attend a function hosted by his Commonwealth office. Other Pacific leaders and delegates were also invited, including Helen Clark.
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Commonwealth secretary general, Don McKinnon, faces the press in Nuku'Alofa, Tonga.
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Commodore Bainimarama arrived in Nuku'Alofa Monday afternoon to prepare for his first Pacific Forum. Last year, Fiji's then prime minister, Laisenia Qarase hosted Pacific Leaders' summit only weeks prior to Bainimarama conducting a military coup and overthrowing the Qarase government.
The New Zealand government and its Australia counterpart have continued to be Bainimarama's staunchest critic. Diplomatically, New Zealand moved to impose immigration restrictions preventing coup leaders and their families from travelling to New Zealand.
New Zealand attempted to create an anti-Fiji mood among the United Nations secretariat - a move designed to ban Fiji's soldiers from taking part in official UN peacekeeping operations.
Later, the Pacific Islands Forum similarly demanded Bainimarama restore Fiji to a democracy as soon as possible. The Fiji interim government indicated its intention to hold free and democratic elections but remains uncommitted to a specific timeline.
McKinnon indicated that this will be the last time he attends a Pacific Islands Forum as he intends to stand down from politics once his tenure as Commonwealth secretary general concludes. His position is expected to go to the vote at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Uganda later this year.
ALSO: Australia's PM John Howard will not be attending the Pacific Islands Forum, nor will Solomon Islands prime minister Manasseh Sogavare who will boycott the leaders' summit protesting against the continued involvement of RAMSI (Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands) forces in the Solomons.
(95bFM Audio): Jose Crosses Live To Selwyn Manning in Tonga The Pacific Forum is underway, and Selwyn Manning reports live from Tonga where he gives Jose Barbosa an overview of what will be happing, what everyone will be talking about (Fiji) and who isn't turning up. Bainimarama arrives!