10 Apr 2015

Fiji leader seeking bigger regional role - academic

1:54 pm on 10 April 2015

A New Zealand academic says Fiji appears to be holding all the cards over any return to the leaders' table at the Pacific Islands Forum.

Fiji's prime minister Frank Bainimarama says he will not attend this year's Forum summit in Papua New Guinea.

Fiji says Australia and New Zealand have to leave the Forum unless they change their status as donors to become simple members.

The opposition in Fiji has characterised this as petulance from Mr Bainimarama but Auckland University associate professor of Pacific Studies, Damon Salesa, says Fiji, having previously been suspended from the Forum, has found it does not need the agency as much as before.

"They gave him the opportunity to sort of flex his muscle and I guess what we are seeing is he wants something out of this return, and perhaps to be a leader. And we see multiple attempts by Bainimarama to be a regional leader, to claim a place at the forefront for Fiji, which, especially outside of Melanesia is far and away the largest economy."

Fiji's suspension from the Forum was lifted after last year's election.

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