16 Nov 2023

Be cautious of taking Australian money, former Fiji PM warns Pacific leaders

5:15 pm on 16 November 2023
Mahendra Chaudhry.

Mahendra Chaudhry. Photo: Supplied/Fiji Labour Party

A former Fijian prime minister and the leader of the country's Labour Party, Mahendra Chaudhry, is warning Pacific leaders to be wary of accepting financial assistance from Australia.

He said the money may lead to compromises of the region's strong opposition to Australia's continued investment in fossil fuel projects.

Chaudhry was speaking after Australia offered to financially support the attendance of three Pacific prime ministers and five other ministers at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai this month.

"It is also a question of preserving our sovereignty against external influence," the former prime minister said.

"One must ask whether the three Pacific Island leaders who are beneficiaries of Australia's largesse will be expected to tone down their criticisms of the continued expansion of its fossil fuel industry."

Chaudhry said the island countries should seek tangible evidence of Australia's so-called commitment to reduce its own carbon emissions.

He said for years Australia has been making promises on this matter and has not been able to keep them.

Australia's announcement to give residency to 280 Tuvaluans a year, may be commendable, but it needs to do a lot more to alleviate the roots of the crisis facing our region, he said.

"If small Pacific Island nations need financial assistance in getting to COP 28, this should come from the United Nations so that they do not compromise their position on issues that are vital to the future of our region," Chaudhry said.

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