Fiji and Samoa's leaders are going head to head again, this time over the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and which country has a claim to it.
Samoa’s Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi fired the first salvo two weeks ago, when he said Fiji’s military government had come up with the Immunity Decree to avoid prosecution and was surely an admission of guilt.
Tuilaepa also mocked Voreqe Bainimarama, saying he was a little dictator and he "wouldn't be surprised if his next decree is to change the Fiji national anthem."
His comments were widely supported but scoffed at by the junta leader, who this week retorted with the claim that Tuilaepa had lost his mind, and that the Samoan PM was "desperate and trying to whip up a regional outcry, so that the Pacific Forum secretariat could be moved from Suva to Apia."
Bainimarama told the Fiji Broadcasting Corproation that he didn't think anyone from the Forum Secretariat would want to relocate to Samoa, because Fiji was the more modern country out of the two.
But Tuilaepa has now suggested Fiji's self-appointed leader "keeps quiet" and learn from the valuable lessons he is imparting “free of charge”.
In a second interview with Tupuola Terry Tavita printed today on Pacific Scoop, Tuilaepa says: "You know, calling the Commodore a Prime Minister is like calling a skinny dog a vicious lion, a scrawny chicken a soaring eagle.”
He was equally scathing of Bainimarama's comments about the Forum Secretariat, saying: “Best he sticks to planting cassava and leave Forum issues to bonafide elected leaders. He has neither say nor business with neither the Forum nor its secretariat.”
Fiji was suspended from the Pacific Islands Forum last year, three years after Bainimarama ousted the elected government of Laisenia Qarase.
In reply to Bainimarama's claim he was angling to secure the Forum Secretariat for Samoa, Tuilaepa says such a decision is not his to make but that of the leaders of the Pacific Islands Forum.
“Whether it gets relocated to Samoa, Papua (New Guinea), Tonga, Vanuatu or even Bikini Atoll is neither Bani’s nor those working at the Secretariat’s decision to make. And if it (Secretariat) does relocate, well Bani only has himself to blame for it. He is the root cause of all these problems.”
But Tuilaepa says it's highly unlikely the Secretariat would want to operate “under the thumb” of an unelected military regime. “Especially a regime that has done away with the rule of law, democratic government, an independent judiciary and suppression of the media and freedom of speech. It’s against the exact fundamental principles the Forum was founded on.”
Tuilaepa says he doesn't know how Bainimarama came to make the suggestion. He said: "It appears that he is scared that it’ll be relocated to Samoa? Well, thank you very much Mr Bainimarama for your vote of confidence in us. But, frankly, we don’t need your endorsement.”-Sources Tupuola Terry Tavita's story on Pacific Scoop and the FBC story on Bainimarama.