The suspension was triggered by the country's military backed government's refusal to meet a Forum deadline to set an election date this year. And it went ahead, despite a last minute plea from Fiji's interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainamarama to re-open dialogue on the issue. The suspension means Fiji will not be eligible for funding or technical assistance and its leader, ministers and government officials will not be allowed to attend Forum meetings. But at the moment the Forum's Secretariat remains in Suva, and Fiji's interim government says it will continue play an important role in the Pacific, claiming it has the support of many of their Pacific Island neighbours. The Pacific Islands Forum secretariat has refused to comment on the suspension, and despite repeated attempts by Pacific Beat to contact the Forum chairman Niue Premier Toke Talagi he was not reachable.
Presenter: Helene Hofman
Speaker: Fiji's interim Attorney General and Acting Prime Minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khiayum
KHAIYUM: We believe that the suspension is quite regrettable, but the point is that the Fiji is very much part of the Pacific and part of the forum, so is the Pacific and the forum part of Fiji. The question of course arises where to from here for the forum? This is an unprecedented rule. This has never happened in the forum before. Fiji, for example, did not have elections following the Rabuka coup in 1987 for five years and there was no suspension then. The Australian and New Zealand governments position of foreign policy in '87 and in 2000 was completely different. This time it is different, and therefore it would appear that the forum decision were different also.
We have at the same time extremely wonderful bilateral relationships with our forum brothers and sisters. We for example, talk to the other Pacific Island countries and they talk to us. What they also tell us on a one-on-one basis is completely different. They obviously are quite supportive of Fiji. We are very much a part of the Pacific like I said and will continue to be part of the Pacific. We've still got our other arrangements, the Melanesian Spearhead Group, the Melanesian group of countries we have got special arrangements with them.
HOFMAN: What about the Secretariat which is based in Suva? From Fiji's end, what is likely to happen there?
KHAIYUM: Well, I think they will continue to be in Fiji. Fiji is very keen to host anybody that a multinational agency or a bilateral agency that exists and they have been in Fiji since its exception. So are other organisations, other international organisations who have headquarters in Fiji, logistically make sense. So we obviously will continue to host the forum. There is no question about that.
HOFMAN: And also, the New Zealand Trade Minister has pointed out that Fiji won't be invited to this weekend's talks on Pacer and Pacer Plus. What is your reaction to that?
KHAIYUM: Well, that's the first I am hearing from you. We obviously need to be notified of that formally and once we have been, then we can comment on it. Like I said, I have just heard from you just now.
HOFMAN: As you've said, you don't agree with what's happened? What are you planning to do?
KHAIYUM: We will continue to do what we said that we will continue to do, which is that we have got a reform agenda in Fiji, we have got various ......??? that we put in place in terms of having election by 2014. We are focused on having a better governmental system in Fiji and that's our focus and we will stay remained focused on that, because that is important for Fiji. We are not simply going to react for the sake of reacting. We have our position quite clear, we are a sovereign state, we have obviously challenges, like most other countries in the world. We obviously have some specific challenges and we need to deal with them. The point is what you really need to ask is where to from now from Australian and New Zealand's perspective from the volunteers perspective. What are they going to do about that now?
HOFMAN: The Forum has said that it is not going to close its doors to you. Are you still hoping to maintain some kind of contact with them?
KHAIYUM: Absolutely, we have always had an open door policy. We have never., we have never shut ourselves from engaging with anybody who wants to engage with us in a constructive basis. We are .....?? respected and we want to be treated with dignity.