22 Jul 2010

Fiji gathering about saving face - academic

9:45 pm on 22 July 2010

A Fiji academic says a meeting of Pacific leaders in Fiji will allow the country's interim government to save face after the cancellation of the Melanesian Spearhead Group summit.

Leaders from Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu are reported to be attending the meeting, along with representatives from Tonga, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and East Timor.

The Australian National University's Brij Lal says the meeting allows the regime to claim a victory of sorts over New Zealand and Australia, which are not attending.

Fiji's Ministry of Information says the country has received strong backing from the 10 countries attending the Nadi meeting.

It says the countries expressed strong backing for a presentation on how the government would advance towards elections in 2014.

It says the delegates also endorsed other initiatives such as its anti-corruption laws, rural development programmes, poverty alleviation and good governance policies as well as an education-for-all initiative.

But Prime Minister John Key says the gathering is unlikely to benefit Fiji's interim regime.

Mr Key says it is important to note that those attending the meeting are not necessarily the leaders of those countries, and the Pacific way is to maintain regional dialogue.

He says the Pacific leaders with whom he has spoken endorse the position taken by the Pacific Islands Forum to exclude Fiji until it is back on the path to democracy.

Earlier, Fiji's interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, told the Pacific leaders the region needed to look to the future.

Commodore Bainimarama says some challenges cannot be resolved simply by relying on traditional spheres of influence, which he says are often dictated by the Pacific's colonial past and by certain metropolitan powers.

He says breaking away from the shackles of the past will make some uncomfortable, but it must be done.