23 Mar 2011

MSG officials begin Fiji meetings

3:38 pm on 23 March 2011

Trade officials from the countries in the Melanesian Spearhead Group have begun meeting in Suva, ahead of a leaders' summit next week.

The meetings follow the controversial scrapping of a summit last year.

Don Wiseman reports:

"There's no indication of what the trade officials are discussing, but the interim Fiji government has previously said it wants to grow its exports to the other Melanesian countries. On Friday senior government officials get together, foreign ministers meet on Tuesday, with the one day leaders' summit on Thursday. The leaders of Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Vanuatu are expected to attend the meeting which replaces one controversially cancelled last year by Vanuatu's then leader, Edward Natapei. He was concerned that handing the chairmanship to Fiji's Commodore Frank Bainimarama undermined the fundamental principles and values of democracy and good governance on which the MSG was built. Mr Natapei's move prompted Commodore Bainimarama to expel the acting Australian High Commissioner, blaming her for the action taken by Mr Natapei. He also threatened not to call elections by 2014 as he'd promised. A change of government in Vanuatu and support from Solomon Islands and PNG saw Commodore Bainimarama belatedly given the chairmanship, while a reconciliation ceremony was held in Honiara."