Samoa disagrees with Australia over Fiji | Pacific Beat

Samoa disagrees with Australia over Fiji

Samoa disagrees with Australia over Fiji

Updated 16 January 2013, 9:45 AEDT

Samoa's prime minister says he doesn't agree with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr's sympathetic approach to Fiji's coup installed military government.

Mr Carr says he can see why the interim government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama rejected elements of the draft constitution.

He says the jury's still out on whether the constitutional process will be enough to restore Fiji's international reputation.

The Fiji interim government has declined to respond to Senator Carr's comments.

But the United People's Party leader in Fiji, Mick Beddoes, says Mr Carr's endorsement of the unilateral decision to scrap the draft constitution suggests he is confusing the need to 'engage' the regime with 'embracing' it.

He says the statement by Mr Carr is a mistake and he needs to immediately recognise this and step back from it if Australia wants to stay on the side of supporting and upholding the rule or law, and promoting genuine democracy not only in the rest of the world, but also in the Pacific.

Otherwise Mr Beddoes says the Australia Foreign Minister will be seen as ignoring the majority of the people of Fiji by appeasing their oppressors and creating a new Australian foreign policy that will be laced with hypocrisy.

Samoan prime minister Tuillaepa Sailele says he disagrees with Mr Carr's approach, but he isn't surprised.

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Samoan prime minister Tuillaepa Sailele

TUILAEPA: Really no, I was not surprised, reason being the Minister seems to have his own mind and I go back to the time when he decided to provide some assistance for the preparation of the elections in Fiji. I became aware of it later and I thought that was a nice thing to do. When I was asked of my comments on what Mr. Carr had done, I said we should give Fiji in the benefit of the doubt and hope for the best that they would proceed and call the elections as Bainimarama had promised. That's what I said when I became aware of the change in attitude to the new Minister coming in. Because that change was also supported by the Foreign Minister of New Zealand. Before that, I had always been saying that the sanctions against the regime were not enough, would not be enough to push Bainimarama. But I think both New Zealand and Australia were more concerned with the impacts of the sanctions on the general public, a factor which I had been saying all along, there would be no impact on the public. The Pacific should never be equated with Africa, where once a dictatorship has taken place, the supporters of the dictatorship would roam the countryside, terrorising and kill and rape. That is not the Pacific. In the Pacific, people just go on living their own lifestyles. Now when the Constitution, the Draft Constitution copies were burnt, my suspicion was still there, that all this is whitewash actions by Bainimarama regime. They never have any intention of going along and have a general election.

HILL: But clearly, Mr. Carr disagrees. He says the jury is still out on that and he's taken a more sympathetic line?

TUILAEPA: What kind of jury do want, what kind of jury do you want? When the Draft Constitution was now prepared, and the next part of the design was to pick the Assembly, that is where the decisions would be made, that process is now denied and it proves that the military have never had any intention of going through with these promises.

I am waiting when Bainimarama is going to come out and say what is in his mind. Where is Bainimarama, where is he hiding? That's the fellow who is needed at this time. What is evident is that he is hiding while pushing his boys to do his dirty work.

HILL: I take it from what you're saying that you wouldn't agree with Senator Carr's more sympathetic approach to Fiji?

TUILAEPA: You can say that. I don't agree with what he was saying.

HILL: What effect do you think his new approach will have, first of all on Fiji, and second of all, on the other Pacific Island countries?

TUILAEPA: I do not really know what next. We have our Standing Committee of Foreign Ministers and I think it is time now for another move, for the Committee to pay another visit and talk to the government what the hell they're up to.

HILL: But if Australia is taking a more sympathetic line, doesn't that mean that countries like yourself, Samoa, New Zealand and other countries might now have to follow suit, seeing as Australia's such a powerful country?

TUILAEPA: You see, the whole gist of the whole issue is the decision by the forum. We have the decision of the forum, that we have to abide by and this is where the Committee of Foreign Ministers must remember that they have a responsibility to the Forum. The Committee must now move to re-open and re-engage Fiji on the process they are going to take.

HILL: I guess the question I'm really asking is now that Australia seems to have changed its approach. Is the rest of the Pacific going to change to fit in with Australia now?

TUILAEPA: No.

HILL: Would you care to elaborate on that?

TUILAEPA: No one country dictates to the Forum.

HILL: If you're concerned about Senator Carr's decision, will you be taking it up with him directly?

TUILAEPA: I'll think about it.

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