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Leaders Agonized For Hours Over 'Suspension' Word

Pacific Leaders Agonized For Hours Over 'Suspension' Word

By John Andrews in Niue

Pacific Island leaders agonized for hours over the use of the word 'suspension' while debating their response to Fiji's boycott of their forum summit in Niue. In an exclusive interview, Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa (pictured right) said today that in the end, his fellow leaders felt: "It is better for the Fiji military regime to know exactly, to understand the thinking of the forum ministers."

Forum leaders decided yesterday they might suspend Fiji from their organisation if Commodore Frank Bainimarama's military-imposed government did not allow his country to return soon to democratic rule.

Tuilaepa, a member of the forum's ministerial contact group negotiating with Fiji, said forum leaders did not use the word 'suspension' lightly.

He said: "It does not really help Bainimarama [Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji's interim leader] by [him] continuing to play that tactic of attributing decisions of the forum to the influence of either New Zealand or Australia.

"That kind of mental attitude from Bainimarama does not help his cause. What he is doing is ridiculing the independence and integrity of all the members of the forum.

"That is how we arrived at a compromise to keep on engaging Fiji by [via] the group of ministers whose recommendations would be seriously considered by the leaders."

The Samoan leader, whose analysis and comments on the Fiji issue was described by some officials as having a strong influence on the forum leaders' ultimate message to the Fiji regime, said his forum counterparts did not overlook the fact that the Fijian people had to take eventual responsibility for a solution.

People in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines had shown that, in spite of the rule of a gun, they rose up using 'people power' to solve their political situations.

Tuilaepa said the ministerial contact group would monitor events in Fiji, hopefully revisit the country in the next month or two then prepare recommendations which could include suspension.


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