Pacific Beat, Radio Australia: Fiji's interim Prime Minister says he is being encouraged by some Pacific Island Forum nations to include them in next year's Melanasian Spearhead Group meeting. It is Fiji 's turn to chair the MSG next year, and it is considering giving observer status to some island nations outside the group to enable them to attend the meeting.
Traditionally MSG membership is restricted to Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea . But since Fiji 's suspension from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth, Fiji is barred from meetings such as PACER Plus.
Interim Prime Minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama says Fiji's needs a forum to discuss issues of common interest to the whole region.
BAINIMARAMA: What is happened is a couple of leaders of the rest of the Pacific Island nations have come to see me, saying that there is now no forum for us to talk bilaterally and multilaterally, so they thought it would be a good idea if we they can talk to us in a forum such as that. Fiji will be chairing the MSG next year, so there has been some suggestion that in that MSG, I could also invite the rest of the Pacific Island nations to come as observers, not only as observers, but also be an opportunity for us to discuss issues that affects us.
COUTTS: So that you would conduct your own Pacific Island Forum without Australia and New Zealand ?
BAINIMARAMA: No, no, I would be conducting the MSG Grouping meeting, but we will be inviting the rest of the Pacific Island nations, because that is what they want me to do.
COUTTS: Who wants you do to that?
BAINIMARAMA: I'm sorry, I am not at liberty to let you know, but the fact of the matter is that I have been approached by a couple of them to say that it would be a good idea for me to call them as observers, so that we can have a forum to talk on issues affecting a whole lot of us, including Fiji. As you know, we have been removed from the forum, so there is no forum that we can all talk.
COUTTS: It does seem that you want to get everybody together, the Pacific Island nations, including the MSG and hold talks of your own that would be similar to that of the forum?
COUTTS: Who approached you? I know you cannot talk?
BAINIMARAMA: I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I am not at liberty to tell you
COUTTS: Yeah, I understand that, but I was just wondering because you met with a lot of the MSG leaders for a golf tournament recently, was this what was discussed then?
BAINIMARAMA: Yes, but remember I also met a lot of Pacific Island nation leaders in New York a month back.
COUTTS: So will Australia and New Zealand be invited to the forum meeting when you host or chair the MSG next year?
BAINIMARAMA: No, no, this is MSG meeting, it is not a forum meeting. It is not a Pacific Island Forum meeting. It's a MSG meeting which Fiji will be chairing next year and so there has been a suggestion which I take very seriously in inviting the rest of the Pacific Island nation, countries to come and be observers, that way it would be an opportunity for us to talk as a group on matters affecting Fiji and the rest of the Pacific Island nations, because there is no forum such as that now.
COUTTS; That includes Fiji ?
BAINIMARAMA: That's includes Fiji .
COUTTS: So have you sent out the invitations yet for this meeting?
BAINIMARAMA: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. I need to talk further on that with the rest of the MSG group.
COUTTS: And so will you restrict it, when you send out the invitations, will it include countries other than Forum island countries, like the northern Pacific, would you invite them as well?
BAINIMARAMA: I really don't know what we're going to do in the next 12 months, before we have this meeting. But if the meeting ever comes up, then of course it will be made public.
COUTTS: So what kinds of issues would you like to discuss, that you feel that you haven't been able to discuss?
BAINIMARAMA: Well issues, issues that also includes Fiji , but which we don't have a forum to talk in right now.
COUTTS: So because Fiji is suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum and the Commonwealth. You have tried to find another outlet so you can have discussions, so you can proceed. Is this is the first step for you actually saying you don't want to be part of those organisations again?
BAINIMARAMA: Well no, we just want to continue talking with the rest of the Pacific Island nations and I guess with the rest of the Commonwealth countries. If we are suspended from Australia and New Zealand forum, I am sure there are other ways we can move forward without getting too involved in what Australia and New Zealand wants.
COUTTS: Now funding is always an issue and a lot of the funding comes from Australia and New Zealand and also from the EU. There is a story that is going around at the moment that the EU has offered Fiji a parcel of money, in excess of 200 million dollars, but Fiji has turned that down?
BAINIMARAMA: Eh I really don't know that at this stage. No-one has offered Fiji any of that kind of amount in the last two, three months.
COUTTS: But money that has been offered, and Fiji turned it down because of the conditions attached?
BAINIMARAMA: No, as I said, I don't know any of that type of offer. I have never been offered any of that kind of funds in the last, or Fiji has not been offered any kind of that funds in the last six months.
COUTTS: And is Fiji looking to the association of small island states for more support, because it seems after the climate change meetings, a round of the that some of the Pacific Island nations are adopted positions that more closely align those of the small island states, than it does the forum nations statements on climate change?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, you must understand that we share the same problems in climate change. Fiji and the rest of the Pacific Island nations, small island nations like Fiji .
COUTTS: So are they getting together on a formal basis then to make a presentation in Copenhagen with the Association of small island states
BAINIMARAMA: We are going to go to Copenhagen , with our own agenda, the agenda that has been endorsed by the small island nation forum in New York .
COUTTS: And s o what will you be putting to Copenhagen when you go?
BAINIMARAMA: Well, what we discussed in New York and that was what was discussed by the small island nations. But you must understand that we come from the same area. Geraldine, I have got something coming up very soon, so can we finish this off now?
COUTTS: Certainly, may I ask you one more question? You have appointed now Ratu Epeli Nailatikau as your president. When will that happen and for how long will he remain president?
BAINIMARAMA: Initially for three years, so the cabinet people will be coming up in the next cabinet meeting on Tuesday and we will finalise all those issues.
COUTTS: So can we expect to see a vice president appointed shortly?
BAINIMARAMA: Eh no, there will be no vice-president.