What do you see as the key to getting Australia-Fiji relations back on track? What do both Australia and Fiji have to do to make this happen?
The key to getting Australia-Fiji relations back on track is via the tried and tested national and international mechanism of dialogue. Dialogue or negotiation is the first mechanism cited in the Charter of the United Nations for the pacific settlement of disputes. I cannot speak for the Government of Australia but I stand ready to enter into dialogue with my counterpart in Australia aimed at improving relations between our two countries.
The ties that bind us together — geography, history, economic relations our peoples — are more and stronger than the disagreements between us. Also many Fiji nationals are citizens of Australia, as in New Zealand. Our Fijian way of life over the years has been based on friendship instead of conflict.
Are you able to discuss how your recent meeting with your New Zealand counterpart went? What does the meeting mean for Fiji-New Zealand relations?
The meeting between the New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully and myself at Nadi on January 8 and 9, was classified and I am therefore not in a position to comment on any substantive matter discussed. What I can say however is that the meeting was the first at Foreign Minister level between our two countries and that the atmosphere was cordial. The objective of the meeting was to improve bilateral relations between our two countries.
The New Zealand Foreign Minister and I spoke on issues of interest to our two countries. The dialogue was constructive. A positive development of the meeting was that we agreed to restore a Fiji Counsellor in Wellington and a New Zealand Counsellor in Suva as a first step towards the re-establishment of full High Commissions in our capitals. Both parties agreed to further meetings in the future.
My analysis of the meeting was that it laid the foundation for improving relations between our two South Pacific nations which have had a prior history of close and friendly relations. Geography, history, economic relations and close ties between our peoples dictate a return to the status quo ante.
Was progress made with re-engaging the EU after the Prime Minister’s recent visit? I noticed the Prime Minister made mention of possibly re-introducing parts of the constitution in a press release during the visit. What are the government’s plans in this regard?
Discussions between Fiji and the European Union on matters of interest to both parties are on-going and I cannot comment on them. As far as the comment made by our Prime Minister, Commodore Bainimarama, concerning re-introducing parts of the abrogated 1997 Constitution, it is a matter that falls under the portfolio of the Attorney- General and you should consequently direct your question to him.
On a similar front I understand there are plans to lift the Public Emergency Regulations soon – is that still planned?
The lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations will be done soon when the Media Decree is put in place.
On a different issue, I notice the Prime Minister has suggested non-MSG members might be invited along to the next MSG meeting. Is that still the case and how do you see this impacting on the Forum?
I cannot perceive that it will have a negative impact on the Forum. There is among our South Pacific Island countries, a Pacific Way of doing things, based on our culture, custom and tradition. Division and disunity are not part of our culture, tradition and custom.
We must seek and find ways to unite our Melanesian, Micronesia and Polynesian countries for we have a common destiny in this part of the world where we have lived for some 3,000 years, long, long before the advent of European explorers. Together we aspire, together Melanesians, Micronesians and Polynesians shall achieve.