30 Apr 2004

Fiji party says Australia PM should be at Mara funeral

7:33 am on 30 April 2004

The Fiji political party, the SVT, which is led by the former Prime Minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, says the absence of the Australian prime minister, from the funeral of Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, is a snub to a respected and internationally-renowned statesman.

The SVT's secretary, Ema Druavesi, says Australia should be sending its highest representative, which in this case is the prime minister, John Howard, reports Australian Associated Press.

She says Ratu Mara did a lot during his time to promote Fiji in Australia, and this is how they pay their last respects.

Australia will be represented at today's service by its foreign minister, Alexander Downer.

Countries, which are sending their head of government, include Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

New Zealand will be represented by the foreign minister, Phil Goff, and the governor-general, Dame Silvia Cartwright.